Lately I've noticed tons of posters on message boards like Chowhound discussing where to get the best roast chicken. Some of these people are willing to pay restaurants $30+ for this meal. It boggles my mind. Why would you go to a restaurant and order something that is so simple to make at home? That's so boring.
Then there's awful media like CNN and the Today Show poisoning the minds of Americans with their lame diet tips. Quite often they'll advise the public to pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and keep it around for quick snacks. It's too bad that when you buy one of these birds, you can usually only choose from the standard varieties. They're often pumped full of antibiotics and God knows what else. More importantly, you can't flavor the meat the way you'd like, and you miss out on all of those delicious pan drippings. If you roast root vegetables in the same pan as the chicken, they caramelize in the chicken fat. They're almost better than the chicken itself.
The first recipe I used to roast a chicken was Ina Garten's. She makes one every Friday for Jeffrey, so I figure she knows her stuff. Here are more recipes you might like to consult for inspiration, and these people also take better picture than I do:
And what do I do? Many believe roasting a chicken is the true test of a cook, but I try not to get too fussy. I make do with what I already have in the kitchen, but I firmly believe that onions and potatoes are key. You could also mix in some carrots, beets, fennel, and garlic tossed with a little olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. You can keep it all contained in cast iron skillet. This has the added bonus of looking rustic which is all hip right now.
Ok, now let's focus on the chicken. This is my basic routine:
- Preheat the oven to 475.
- Stuff the cavity with some flavorings. Last time I used more garlic (we can't get enough in this apartment), some fennel fronds, and some lemon peels I had in the freezer.
- Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and some fat like olive oil. Place small pieces of butter, duck fat, or a combination all over.
- Tie the legs together so it will roast more evenly. I use some dental floss (white, unflavored!).
- Roast it at 475 for 25 minutes and then lower the heat to 400 for 45 minutes.
- Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes. VERY IMPORTANT! The juices will be reabsorbed in the meat instead of drying out if you cut it too soon.
After you eat your delicious dinner, you will be left with a chicken carcass and lots of fat left in the pan. Lucky you! I always pour the fat into a glass jar to use in another dish later. I also store the bones in my freezer to make stock! Did you notice that I compulsively hoard weird scraps that pass through my kitchen? More on that later...
Ingredients Breakdown: Store Bought Roast Chicken vs. Homemade Roast Chicken
Homemade Roast Chicken: Free Range and Antibiotic Free Chicken, Olive Oil, Butter, Duck Fat, Fennel, Lemon, Garlic, Pepper, Salt
Fresh Direct Rotisserie Chicken: Antibiotic Free Chicken, Marinade (Paprika, Salt, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Onion Powder, Spices, Autolyzed Yeast Extracts, Modified Corn Starch, Less Than 2% Calcium Silicate [Anti-Caking Agent]).