With our road back to recovery, and a slight cold I managed to acquire along the way, I decided we needed an herb roasted chicken dinner this week.
I don't know about you, but I've always had issues with chicken.
#1: Raw chicken? ew. Especially when it has all it's bits still attached, and you have to handle it's cold lifeless body.
#2: Chicken breast is often synonymous with the phrase "Flavorless Flesh" in my brain.
#3: Bones. I think the memory of my brother scientifically hacking open a chicken bone during dinner, revealing the marrow and layers mixed in with canned corn added to my general queasiness for eating animals.
Now, learning to roast my own chicken (we will tackle my turkey issues later) has caused me to overlook flaw #1 and #3 of eating animals, and to overcome flaw #2 entirely. Although my vegetarian friends may mourn, my protein and iron lacking diet rejoices. I also rejoice because of the beauty of the whole bird. You see, not only did we get this roast chicken dinner, but we also got 2 more lunches of the same vein + 2 quarts of delicious stock (nutrient dense, MSG and food coloring free) + more gravy then I can handle (chicken pot pie anyone?) + 3 cups shredded chicken. All of which can go in the freezer until I am ready for soup, enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches... Anyways, for $5 that is a good deal, and a kindness to the bird who gave its life for the dinner table.
So you see why I want you to make your own right? And it isn't really that difficult. So let me walk you through what I do.
Ingredients. Because the bone, dark meat, fat and skin of the bird will give us a lot of flavor, we get to keep it relatively simple. I am only using 3 herbs (thyme, sage and rosemary), butter, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. If you have fresh herbs, just triple the amount used here and you will have something lovely. For salt we are going to use Kosher, because it looks so much prettier in the end.
A lot of roasting recipes call for a roasting pan. I don't have a pan just for roasting, but something heavy duty and oven safe will work just fine (like my cast iron dutch oven). We do need to keep the bird off the bottom though, otherwise it will just stew in it's juices and not cook evenly or get as much beautiful skin. So you can use a rack that fits in your pot, or you can use an onion!
Just cut your onion into 1 - 2 " chunks, and distribute around the pan. Onions have like 20 bonus points on grates because they actually taste good. So this is going to add a lot of flavor to our gravy. You may need more onion if your chicken is sinking to the bottom of the pan.
Next combine your butter, herbs, and pepper in a bowl. The butter should be really soft, like the consistency of pudding soft, that way you can easily and quickly dress the bird. Set this aside.
Prep your chicken by trimming any weird neck pieces, extra flabs of fat/skin, and removing giblets if they came with. I also like to rinse mine out, and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt inside the bird, throw in your smashed garlic cloves and if you are using a grate, place the onion chunks inside the bird.
With your bird positioned breast up you are going to stuff half of your butter mixture underneath the skin on the breast. The skin should peel up in four areas around the bird. Since the butter is soft still you should be able to massage it evenly around with out much trouble. (If you find any other pockets underneath the skin, stuff those with butter too, it's all poultry's dream to be stuffed with butter). Rub the other half of the herb butter around the outside of the bird, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt 1 - 2 tsp. You will notice in the picture below that as the butter gets cold it hardens and flakes off, so try not to handle the bird much after this point.
Once the bird is buttered, arrange on onion slabs, tie the feet together and tuck the wings under the shoulder (not pictured) This will help the bird cook more evenly. Bake at 425 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours. Or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F, and the juices are running clear. After just 15 minutes of baking your bird will smell amazing and that should be rewarding enough, but just in case you didn't get enough delicious for the week we are also making our own pan gravy. Waste not, want not, and if you use the drippings from this bird you will not want another chicken gravy ever again.
When the bird has reached the right temperature, take out of the pot and let it rest covered on a cutting board for 20 minutes. While it rests set the pot on the stove and turn it to medium heat. There should be a lot of juice and fat in the pot, along with some yummy dark roasted bits. Remove the onion and any weird chunks and we can start. Basically we are adding a flour/water slurry, whisking really well, and as it comes to a boil it will thicken. You can make your slurry out of chicken stock, or use a stock/water combo (which is what I do). All the juice and roasted bits in the pan will give you lots of flavor, so the stock isn't really necessary. Also, if after whisking in your slurry and cooking a couple minutes you see a lot of fat, just add more slurry. Yay your fat bird gave you more gravy! Like begets like. Keep cooking till it is a nice velvety gravy like consistency. Too thick? Add more water. Taste and adjust seasonings. You might need more salt. Mine did not. Easy right?
So just like that dinner is ready! I served my chicken and gravy with mashed potatoes and a fresh Strawberry and Spinach salad. The breast pieces will be magnificently moist and flavorful, so let them star in the dinner. The other pieces will be great, but can handle additional seasoning if you decide to use them in leftovers later.
Try the recipe and let me know what you think-- and remember, do the bird justice, no more Flavorless flesh!
3-4 lb Whole Chicken
1/4 C butter softened
1/2 tsp rubbed Sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp crushed Rosemary
1/4 tsp black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
3 garlic cloves smashed
Drippings in pan
2 C water or stock
1/2 C flour
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 pinch rubbed sage
1 dash hot sauce
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine butter, herbs and black pepper. Make sure it is very soft.
Cut the onion into 1-2" slices and arrange on the bottom of your pot, or place a grate at the bottom of your roasting pan. If using a grate place onion inside chicken.
Prepare the bird by trimming off excess fat, skin and removing giblets. Fill the cavity with 3 smashed garlic cloves and 1 tsp salt.
Place the bird in your pot breast side up--loosen the skin by the neck and the cavity, and put half the butter mixture underneath the skin of the chicken. Massage the bird to get the butter to spread evenly around. Use the rest of the butter mixture to cover the outside of the bird, including legs and wings.
Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the shoulders of the bird. Sprinkle with 1 - 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
Roast the chicken until the thickest part of the thigh and the breast read 165 degrees Fahrenheit--and the juices run clear when pierced. About 1 hour and 15 minutes
Let rest on a cutting board, covered with foil for 20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile prepare the gravy
Remove onion and any other large chunks from the drippings in the pot.
Place on stove and heat on med-high heat.
In a separate container whisk flour and cold water (or stock) together until smooth.
Pour "Slurry" into drippings and whisk vigorously until combined.
continue to whisk until gravy is boiling and thickened. Add more water if it is too thick.
Add paprika, sage, pepper and hot sauce, then taste and adjust salt as needed.
- Replace dry herbs by using 1 tablespoon of each fresh herb
- Try adding lemon zest for a brighter flavor
- Refrigerate leftovers for 3 days, or freeze for 2 months.
- Use bones and scraps to make a stock.