Saturday, November 8, 2014

Perfect Roast Chicken

Sort of a bold claim, isn't it? "Perfect Roast Chicken."

A friend once told me “chicken, no matter how it is prepared, always tastes like chicken.” A year or two back, my husband and I were dining at one of our latest favorite Seattle restaurants, The Whale Wins. Against better judgment, we decided to put that chicken theory to the test and ordered the roast chicken, toted by our waitress that evening as being something else. The consensus? Even at a fine restaurant with an amazing chef, I must say it’s true – chicken by any other fancy name, though moist and delicious, still tastes like chicken. 

But even after this experience, this confirmation of theory into fact, there was still something in me, some innate need I suppose to roast a chicken myself. It felt like some sort of right of passage, my initiation into womanhood. I don't entirely know why I felt this so necessary. Buying a whole raw chicken is often exponentially more expensive than buying one from Costco that is roasted and ready (and not to mention delicious), dinner in an instant. But the poultry-whisperer within me could not be silenced and so I got online and started researching chicken. I’m pretty sure the exact search terms I typed into Google read something super specific and exciting like “Perfect Roast Chicken.” So I guess it’s not really surprising that I should stumble upon this recipe with it's audacious title. When it was all said and done, I couldn't really argue though. It was a pretty good chicken. 

I still don't know if I can, in good conscience, convince you that a home-roasted chicken is that much better than those tasty birds from Costco. In fact, my husband would tell you without hesitation that our jazzed up Costco version can't be beat (recipe later). However, if you too are hit with inner poultry-whisperings that require attention in the form of a raw bird and a roasting pan then this recipe is for you. 

Ordinarily I shy away from five-ingredient recipes like this one (ok fine, it has 11 ingredients but that includes the salt and pepper!) particular when they consist of basic of ingredients like onion, carrots, garlic and herbs. But this one somehow made magic of such a simple line up. Rest assured, roasting a chicken isn't as scary as it sounds (though digging out those giblets is every bit as frightening!) Once you get through that part of the recipe, it's smooth sailing, I promise (well, except for the carving of the bird - but just assign that job to someone else!) I love how this chicken roasts over a bed of vegetables, making it an easy, one-dish meal. When you pull the pan out of the oven, the dish is a sight to behold, a meal guaranteed to impress. 

Though the old adage "it tastes like chicken" may be true, you haven't truly lived until you've roasted your own bird. Or something.

Perfect Roast Chicken
(adapted from Ina Garten)

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
8 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets and rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat the outside dry with paper towels and discard. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top, breast side up (with drumsticks and wing tips pointing upward).

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

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posted by kelsie