Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Roast Chicken

Sounds so simple, but like many things in life, it is and it isn't.

I've been roasting chickens forever and have experimented with a dozen variations. I've tried slower, longer roasts and hotter, faster ones. I've drizzled lemon juice, smeared butter or painted on olive oil in search of crispy, tasty skin. I've concocted herb and mustard pastes and delicately worked them between skin and breast.

The challenges are: a bird done enough to kill anything that would send your diners galloping to the toilet, but not so done that the meat turns to cardboard. Second, infusing as much flavor as possible, especially challenging with the breast. Modern chickens don't have a ton of natural flavor, so forcing some culinary excitement into them is never ending quest.

After endless experimentation, I've settled on the following recipe:

One three to four lb chicken (too big gets too tough)
Bunch of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, or whatever floats your boat)
One to two gloves of garlic (optional)
Two to three table spoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Kitchen string

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Wash chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Shove herbs and garlic into the chickens cavity. Don't be shy about the amount of herbs. You want your chicken to look like it's sprouting a plant. Dress the legs with the kitchen string, closing the cavity.

Paint the olive oil all over the chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken on roasting rack inside roasting pan and put in oven. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes or until the skin is nicely brown. Lower the temperature to 400 degrees and roast another 25 to 35 minutes. Remove and stick thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. It's done at 180 degrees.

This recipes yields a juicy, flavorful, tender chicken every time. The herbs cook and steam inside the bird (it's a good idea to wet them to assist the steaming process), infusing the meat with flavor and the olive oil yields a tasty skin.

You can serve as a main course with leftovers or carve it cold for sandwiches.

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