There is nothing like roast chicken. It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper; it will not let you down.
–Laurie Colwin, “Roast Chicken”, from More Home Cooking.
Tonight I roasted a chicken and served it with sauteed sweet potatoes and edamame. I roast a chicken nearly every week. If I am particularly flush, I will roast two chickens and have the second to eat cold for lunches. Truthfully, I like cold roast chicken better than hot, and even more truthfully, I like cold roast chicken for breakfast better than lunch.
Enough confessions, darling, or else we shall fall madly in love and ruin everything.
I always struggled with time and temperature when it came to roasting, until Ms. Colwin showed me the way: 325 for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I tried it once and have never looked back. Perfect roast chicken every time.
As for prep, I don’t do anything fancy. Wash the bird in cold water and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Moisture creates steam and ideally you want dry heat rather than steam, although it won’t ruin your dinner.
Remove the bag of giblets and…do…whatever you…should do with it. And speaking of which, here is an old Sprint PCS commercial that I LOVE. Even though the woman in the spot is regarding a Thanksgiving turkey, her delivery is spot-on perfect, “You want me to put my hand in the what?!”
Put your bird breast-up on the roasting rack in the roasting pan (and yes, that is actually a pot rack that I use in my glass baking dish, may I help you?). Stuff the bird with a halved lemon, a thousand cloves of garlic (or less), and some sprigs of sage, rosemary, thyme, Simon or Garfunkle. Drizzle olive oil over the bird, rub into the skin, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.
Roast at 325 for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When the leg bone wiggles in the joint and the thigh meat registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer, it is done. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the juices settle. Carve and serve.
Carve. Hah. I cannot carve a chicken to save my life. Really. It’s embarrassing. I usually fob the job off on a willing guest, or use kitchen shears, or tear the bird apart with my hands in private while unapologetically eating the roast chicken skin and the tail and the wingtips – with the privilege that comes from being the chef.
I also have a gravy problem but I’m in a support group. I’ll blog about it as soon as I get off the first step. I’m doing OK. You know, just taking it one…chicken…at a time…
Now here is an interesting anecdote. My mother, being the groovy foodie she is, gave me one of those baking dishes with the central cone so you can roast your chicken vertically, ensuring evenly crisp and beautiful skin. Here’s the money shot of my chicken on the throne, ready to go into the oven. As per manufacturer’s recommendation, the cone is filled up with ale and the chicken is sprinkled with salt and pepper. I was having the company the night of this maiden voyage, so I roasted this chicken vertically, and had a second chicken roasted in the traditional way. Just so we could all make a comparison.
The consensus seemed to be that both chickens were equally delicious. The vertical roasted method did not produce evenly crisp and browned skin, rather the neck and shoulders were beautiful and from the waist down it was…not. Furthermore, the ale in the cone didn’t seem to bring anything to the table.
My mom later tried roasting just a turkey breast in the vertical roaster and said it was a howling success. I trust her on these things. Furthermore, roasting just the turkey breast skirts the whole issue of, “You want me to put my hand in the what?!”