So finally, I did it. And I will be doing it again. And again. And again. I warned my husband (if you can "warn" someone something that is such good news) that this is going to become a tradition. He seemed okay with that.
But first, a word from our ethics committee (i.e. me). I consider myself to run a pretty sustainable kitchen. That is, I don't cook that much meat, and when I do, I try to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. So if I was going to roast a whole chicken (and I was), I needed to make sure it was from a good source. Hence a special trip to Whole Foods, where I do not ordinarily shop, to go to their butcher counter and buy a rather pricey (but worth every penny) organic, free-range "Rosie" chicken from Petaluma, California. If you have access to organic, free-range chickens that are truly humanely raised, I implore you to get one for this recipe rather than a factory farm raised bird. Yes it costs more, but when you divide the cost by the number of meals you're going to get out of the chicken, it is actually really cheap.
But of course, you can do whatever you want. I just recommend you try this recipe, tweaked from Martha Stewart's oh-so-educational book, Martha Stewart's Cooking School. I thought it would be a good starting point for my first attempt at roasting a whole bird. And was it ever. I added halved fingerling potatoes and quartered fresh carrots to the roasting pan, and they got golden and crispy and fantastic in the chicken drippings. Best. Veggies. Ever.
The result of this recipe was a fantastic, succulent bird, and quite possibly the best chicken I've ever tasted. Definitely the best that's ever come out of my kitchen. You will be seeing a couple of fun leftover chicken recipes in the week.
Perfect Roast Chicken
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cooking School
serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers to be used for other meals)
1 fresh (organic, free-range) whole chicken, about 4 pounds
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1. Prepare the chicken. Remove the bag of giblets and discard (or save for another use). Let chicken come to room temperature for at least an hour, up to two hours. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Get the cavity as dry as you can. Trim excess fat from the cavity.
2. Preheat oven to 450. Season the chicken cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with lemon, thyme, and garlic. Rub the skin with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Tuck some under the skin on the breast if you feel like it (it will add amazing moisture and flavor). Season all over with salt and pepper.
3. Put the chicken in a large ovenproof skillet or a small roasting pan with a rack. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) registers 160-165, about 55-60 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter or carving board. Let rest for 10 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, make a pan sauce in the roasting pan. Spoon and discard fat from juices in pan (or separate in a gravy separator). Pour accumulated chicken juices from the cavity into the pan. Place pan over medium-high heat. Pour in wine or stock to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by about half. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve into a liquid measuring cup.
5. Carve the chicken and serve with the pan sauce.