As a part of my Lent II, 2016 retreat, I’m trying to pay attention to things that feed me, body, mind, and soul. It also helps with the writing! Let’s Boil Bones…Grammy’s guide to bone broth and other yummy things! is rapidly becoming reality and should be out this fall.
I’ve worked for years to perfect a recipe for roast chicken. Roast chicken makes me happy! It also makes great broth. It’s both homey and elegant in its simplicity. It’s juicy and full of flavor. And, perhaps best of all, it’s easy. In fact, with a little planning and prep time, it could even be a weekday dinner. Or a new tradition for Fridays or Sundays.
Easy, Excellent Roast Chicken
Note: This is all about the chicken! Check with local farmers or your best local butcher for a sustainably raised, pastured chicken. White Oak Pastures, in Bluffton, GA, is a good online source for poultry and other meats. Your butcher may carry their products. These chickens tend to run small so you may want two, especially if you’re counting on leftovers. (More bones for broth!) We’re going to dry brine our chicken, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
Equipment: An oven proof pan for roasting and a rack to fit your pan. This is a perfect use for that med. to large cast iron skillet you’re trying to get to know. It will stand up to the initial high heat just fine. (A stainless steel roaster will work, too. Just be sure to check the recommendations for temperature.) You’ll also want white cotton kitchen string, a basting brush, and a meat thermometer. I’ve killed about a dozen of the fancy, digital thermometers, so we stick to the old fashioned kind with a little round dial and handy pictures. Especially if you’re learning, the thermometer helps. You may want a zippy bag in the 2 1/2 gallon size and a 1/2 sheet tray.
- 1 – 2 whole chickens, the very best quality you can get.
- Coarse ground grey Celtic sea salt.
- Freshly ground black or pink peppercorns.
- Dryed thyme (or other herbs as desired).
- A selection of aromatics to fill the cavity of the chicken. Choose from favorites like these: 1/4 onion, peeled; 1/4 organic apple, cored; 1/4 stalk organic celery including leaves, washed well; 1 piece of carrot, scrubbed; 1/2 fresh, organic lemon; 3-4 crushed cloves of garlic, peels left on; 1 fresh bay leaf, crumbled by hand to release oils.
- Good olive oil or organic butter, for basting.
If your chicken is frozen, thaw in the fridge for 24 hours.
In the morning of serving day, removed thawed chicken from the fridge and let it come pretty close to cool room temp on the counter, about 45 min. – 1 hour. (Put it way high up where the dog can’t reach it!)
Mix together in small bowl: 1 tsp. coarse sea salt, 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, 1/2 tsp. crushed, dried thyme per pound of chicken. Please don’t use regular table salt! It leaves a bitter taste and you have to reduce the amount significantly so it’s hard to cover the whole bird without making it too salty.
Remove neck and any innards that may be inside. Reserve and freeze neck, gizzard, and heart for stock. Liver may be saved for dirty rice, but should be frozen separately. Dry inside and out with paper towels and place on a sheet tray for working.
Season inside and outside well with salt mix, being sure to cover areas around thighs, legs, and wings well. You can place seasoned bird on a dry sheet tray or in a 2 1/2 gal. zippy bag, leaving zipper about 1/3 open. (Our fridge tends to be full and busy so I usually go with the bag.) Place in fridge, preferably the old one in the basement, and just leave it alone for up to 6 – 8 hours. (I think 5 – 6 hours is about right, depending on the size of the chicken!) It will be fine. Really!
About 1 hour before roasting begins, remove chicken from fridge and let it come back to cool room temp. (Remember the dog!)
Adjust oven racks so chicken will roast in middle of oven. Be sure to have a higher rack, also, if you plan to roast veg to serve with chicken. Preheat oven to 525 F.
When chicken reaches room temp, gently pat it dry inside and outside with paper towels, being careful not to remove any salt mixture remaining on the surface.
Fill cavity of chicken with your chosen aromatics from list above. These will enhance the flavor of both meat and juices.
Cut a piece of white cotton kitchen string about 5 or 6 feet long. Tuck wings behind and under the body. Double the string and truss the chicken so that the wings and legs are close to the body and aromatics remain inside. This helps the chicken cook more evenly.
Place bird on rack, breast side up, in iron skillet or roasting pan.
Roast at 525 F. for 9 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 400 F. and continue to roast about 1 hour longer, basting every 20 min. with olive oil, melted butter, or pan juices. (You’ll probably need olive oil or butter for at least the first basting.) If it’s browning too quickly, tent loosely with foil.
Chicken is done when skin is crispy and browned beautifully, the legs wiggle freely when you push on the ankle and temp is 160 – 165 F. on an instant read thermometer inserted in the deepest part of breast and thigh, but not touching bone. (Chicken will continue to cook a bit while it rests.) If you suddenly smell the delicious aroma of perfect chicken, check on it! It may be telling you it’s done.
Allow chicken to rest 15 – 20 minutes, uncovered if you like crispy skin.
Carve meat from carcass, reserving meat juices to pour over chicken and reserving bones for broth. If you’re not going to make broth for more than 2 or 3 days, freeze bones and any innards you saved, labeled and dated.
Baked potatoes make an easy side with the chicken as they’ll be perfectly done if baked in the 400 F. oven while the chicken cooks and rests. Most roast veg will be finished in 30 min. or so at the same 400 F. And almost no dishes!