If you have about 15 minutes to put it together and about an hour to let it cook, you're in for a great dinner!
This post isn't so much a recipe but a concept. You can choose from a variety of herbs (I used rosemary and thyme, but you can also use tarragon) and citrus fruits (lemon is my favorite, but oranges give a more delicate citrus flavor and pair nicely with rosemary). Experiment and see what your favorite combination is! Here's my attempt at putting this "concept" into a recipe format.
Roasted Whole Chicken
3-5 lb. whole chicken
1 lemon, halved
Bunch of rosemary, reserving a tablespoon of leaves to chop
Bunch of thyme, reserving a tablespoon of leaves to chop
2 tbsp. olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the giblets from inside the chicken cavity (they are typically in a bag). Rinse the chicken inside and out with water and trim any excess fat. Channel your inner Julia Child and use a paper towel to pat the outside dry.
- Liberally salt and pepper the entire chicken, both the inside cavity and the outside skin. (I recommend putting a couple tablespoons of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper into separate bowls so you don't have to worry about contaminating your salt cellar or pepper grinder.)
- Stuff the cavity with the bunches of thyme and rosemary and both halves of the lemon. (These ingredients in the cavity of the chicken serve a dual purpose: You keep the breast from cooking too fast and drying out, and the flavor is infused into the chicken.) Place the chicken in a baking dish (see update below).
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, a pinch or two of salt and pepper, and the chopped rosemary and thyme. With the legs of the chicken facing up, separate the skin of the chicken breast area from the meat and push the olive oil mixture under the skin with your fingers. Then rub the remaining olive oil/herb mixture on the entire outside of the chicken. A chicken massage, if you will.
- Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken and tie the legs together with kitchen twine. I like to wrap the twine around the ends of the legs in a figure 8 and then tie into a tight knot. Doing this makes the chicken more compact so there aren't any parts sticking out that will cook too fast.
- Roast for 60-90 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. Ultimately, you want the juices to run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the internal temperature to reach 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Once cooked, place the chicken on a cutting board (preferably one with a well) and cover with foil for 15-20 minutes. Then cut the chicken into pieces and serve.
***UPDATE: My dad (who is a wonderful cook) pointed out that cooking the chicken in a roasting rack or on a bed of veggies helps the underside of the chicken cook more evenly. Tonight I tried his suggestion by chopping up some carrots and garlic (it's all I had; we're moving in a few days!) and placing the chicken right on top — prepared as described above. It was fantastic! I definitely think it made a big difference. Thanks Dad, as always, for your great advice!***
Gone are the days where roasted chicken needs to be served with BBQ sauce or ketchup — you'll have flavorful, tender chicken every time. Serve it with your favorite steamed veggies, and you've got a deliciously low-key, healthful meal!