Roast Chicken

chickenForgive me yet another roasting post.  I henceforth declare (retroactively) this past week Roasting Week, in homage to all the crispy, browned, concentrated flavors that dry oven heat bestows upon us.  This does not count as a real post, I know.  I don’t have any teaser images or elaborate descriptions.  I just have something so delicious and essential that it must be added to the blog.  This ‘recipe’, if you can even call it that, serves so many purposes I simply have to share it.  For one, it looks great and is perfect for entertaining.  Second, it is quite adaptable to all manner of taste and preference.  Third, it leaves you with some great leftovers (which I will be dealing with in a future post).  In any case, read the post through before you start cooking so you can understand the whole concept…

The method is as follows: buy yourself a whole roasting chicken and get a good one (read: free range preferable, super-market bird less than acceptable).  I describe my bad experience with a not-so-special bird here, so try not to make the same mistake I did – I promise it makes a difference!  Rinse the bird with cold water inside and out, then pat dry.  Remove excess fat from the outside and inside of the bird.  Personally, I keep the “pope’s nose” (the fatty flap at the opening of the bird’s cavity) intact ‘cuz my Gammy likes it, but if your grandmother isn’t around, ditch it with the rest.  Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the bird to your own taste.

Now is your chance to improvise.  You want to stuff the bird with some aromatics, which can include any combination of the following: a halved onion; a halved head of garlic; a halved lemon; sprigs of thyme, rosemary and/or sage.  You want to fill the cavity without ramming junk in there to the breaking point.  

Depending on what you put inside the bird, you want to mix your basting butter accordingly.  If my bird is stuffed with herbs, I might make a minced shallot butter.  If I stuff with lemon, then parsley and tarragon butter tastes delicious.  Mix and match to your delight!  You will want your basting butter to be a mixture of 1 tablespoon of butter per pound of chicken plus some combination of chopped herbs, lemon juice, minced shallots or garlic.

Once the chicken is stuffed, tie the legs together with twine, or, as in the picture above, cut small holes in the skin of the bird below the leg and near to the cavity, then shove the ends of the legs into them.  This will ensure that the legs of the bird stay close to the breast.  Put the bird in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.  At the end of the 20 minutes, baste the bird with your melted butter mixture.  Turn the oven heat down to 375.  Cook for a total time (including the first 20 minutes) of 15-20 minutes per pound.  Every 15 minutes or so, baste with the flavored butter mixture.

When the time’s up, remove the chicken from the oven.  If you’re worried about done-ness, prick the thigh of the chicken (below the leg) with the tip of a knife and take a peek at the juices that come out.  If they’re red or pink, you want to put it back in the oven for a bit.  If they’re clear, let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.  Carve and serve!

Now – you may be asking yourselves why it looks like the juices around my chicken are black in the pan.  For one thing, they were not actually black.  They were very dark brown.  And they looked that way because I modified my traditional prep (above) to add in tips from Anthony Bourdain‘s Les Halles Cookbook.  I put the giblets and half an onion on a pan and rested the raw chicken body on top of all of them.  Then I poured about a cup of white wine around the bottom of the pan and followed my own directions, above, for roasting the chicken.  This allowed me a great base for a pan sauce – I just had to put the chicken and other solids on a cutting board then mix some beurre manie and chicken stock into the pan to scrape up the fond (leftover roasted chicken bits) from the bottom of the pan.  This will result in a yummy chicken-y sauce which you can use just as is, or you can add a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and cook a few minutes before pouring into a gravy dish.

Enjoy my mom’s chicken recipe – it’s no family secret or anything, but it’s a family classic.

Update: Since there seems to be some confusion about the issue, please see below picture of “The Pope’s Nose”pope2


  1. Charlie M says:

    If you don’t mind getting your kitchen (and possibly neighboring rooms) a little smoky, this recipe is pretty great:

    It’s Tom Keller’s recipe (French Laundry, SF, CA) and it is so simple but so good. You might want to turn off your smoke detector if its particularly sensitive though!

    Hope all is well!

  2. Katharine says:

    Ha! Keller talks about the “Pope’s Nose” too (he calls it the chicken butt) – maybe Gam is on to something!

  3. Christy says:

    Haha! The “Pope’s Nose” is what Gammy called “the last part of the chicken over the fence”. It’s the base of the tail and is shaped like, oddly enough, a nose. It is quite fatty, but very delicious when crisped up.

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