A dear friend asked me what my first blog entry would be and brilliantly insisted suggested roasted chicken. Does this define my style of cooking? Is it the most amazing thing I make? No, not really. But still, it's a pretty perfect place to start. In my opinion, this is one of the most essential dishes to have in your repertoire. So basic, so versatile, so comforting and delicious. Roast two at a time (hardly any extra work) and use the leftovers for sandwiches, salads, tacos, soup, etc. Your house will smell so amazingly good and your time will be largely free while they roast away.
For the juiciest chicken possible, you MUST truss. Thomas Keller has written volumes on the subject if you need additional supporting evidence. Jamie Oliver started a near craze stuffing herbs and things under the skin years ago (which is brilliant BTW, just a little fussy) Just trust me. TRUSS.
If you have never trussed, there is NOTHING to fear. Just cut a piece of kitchen twine about a length and a half of your arm and place the chicken with it's legs towards you. Center the twine under the neck end of the breast and pull the string towards you to plump it the breast up. Tie a knot and then take the ends of twine and wrap them around the legs to close them together. Tie a second knot to seal the bird as best you can.
You certainly don't need to do the butter thing. I have roasted many a chicken with just a generous smear of olive oil, salt and pepper. I don't need to explain the benefits of the butter pats. Totally your call.
When you are checking the temperature of the chickens, place the instant read thermometer where the breast meets the thigh. Unfortunately, my husband likes his chicken OVERcooked which is why this reading is what it is. 165°F is ideal. It will come up after you pull it out of the oven and let it rest.
Feel free free free to make this your own. Use whatever spices, salts, flavor profiles you see fit. One of my favorites is to season the chickens with curry powder. Serve with basmati rice, mango chutney, lemon wedges, naan and a salad. Done. You get the idea.
For this meal, I served the chickens with an arugula salad with cilantro dressing and garlic confit grilled bread. And those recipes, of course, follow this post.
2 4 lb organic chickens
6 T garlic confit or 10 cloves of peeled garlic
15 baby or fingerling potatoes
8 T unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
smoked paprika (or any spice or mix you chose)
Bring chickens to room temperature and place on a heavy plastic cutting board.
Preheat oven to 425° F (or convection roast in about an hour)
While the chickens are sitting, prepare your vegetables. Peel, trim and quarter the onions, carrots and parsnips. Try to keep the sizes as even as possible. Cut the potatoes if they are substantially larger than the other veggies. Toss in a bowl with some garlic confit, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Make a nice bed of vegetables for your chickens in a roasting pan.
Season the (empty!) cavity with salt and pepper. Toss about 2-3 T of the garlic confit or a few cloves of garlic into each chicken. Truss.
Lay your chicken on the bed and season with olive oil or even rub with some of the garlic confit. Season very generously with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Place a few pats of butter on each bird.
Roast the chickens until they reach 165°F on an instant thermometer. Let them rest for at least 15 minutes before digging in.