You know you’re losing it when you post Wendell for Wednesday on Tuesday not once, but two weeks in a row! Yikes!
Surprisingly, until recently, my preferred method of cooking a whole chicken was the beer butt method on the grill. However, lately, I found a great local source for whole chickens, and I decided to try roasting instead because I wanted a whole meal with relatively little work. A side benefit of this meal is that the drippings make the richest and most delicious stock ever!
I have two different methods – one super easy and one that requires just a bit more work. Let’s take the longer one first.
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
1 whole happily raised chicken (typically about 3-4 pounds)
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (use the herb of your choice here – really anything works, but rosemary is my favorite. If you don’t have fresh, a teaspoon or two of dried will work too)
1 cup of water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prep the chicken by making sure it is completely dry and at room temperature first. Use two tablespoons of butter and slip it, along with the fresh herbs, under the skin above the chicken breast. In a cast iron skillet, layer the diced vegetables on the bottom of the pan (functions similarly to a roasting pan with a V-rack to get the chicken off of the bottom of the pan). Lay the chicken breast-side up on top of the vegetables. Spread the remaining tablespoon of butter on the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan and place in the oven for around 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, increase the temperature in the oven to 450 degrees and continue to roast the chicken until the thick part of the breast registers 160 degrees on your thermometer (typically an additional 30 minutes). Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest in its own juices for at least twenty minutes before carving the chicken (or making your husband do it because he is the expert).
I like to use the vegetables and juices from cooking for my next round of stock, but you could easily eat the veggies with your dinner.
The lazy Sara version*
The method above isn’t difficult, but if I’m in a hurry, I prefer this method. I think the ATK version is a bit juicier, but not so much so that this version isn’t worth it if you’re in a hurry.
1 happily raised whole chicken
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 sprigs rosemary (or herb of your choice)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously rub the dry, room temperature chicken with olive oil, stuff the rosemary under the skin of the breast, and season all over generously with salt and pepper (optional here: lemons and fresh garlic are delicious under the skin; if you want some kick, add some chipotle pepper seasoning with the salt and pepper; be adventurous – it’s difficult to screw this up!). Once the oven is preheated, put a glug of olive oil in a cast iron or other oven-safe pan and turn the heat on medium. Once the oil is shimmering a bit, put the chicken on the pan. You’ll want to brown each side for a few minutes. I usually split it up into four “sides” – breast side, back side, then precariously hold it in place to the brown the left and right sides, but at the minimum, do the breast and back sides. The kitchen will smell really nice right about now, and the chicken’s skin will be brown and pretty. Once you’ve browned the sides, throw the pan in the oven and set the timer for around 45 minutes. Check the thick part of the breast after 40 minutes – it is done when it reaches 160 degrees on your thermometer (the thermometer really is your best friend with chicken). Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it set in its own juices for at least twenty minutes before carving.
I like to make a little pan gravy with this version to serve with the chicken. All I do is remove the chicken from the pan onto a cutting board to let it rest. Then I throw about 1/4 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of white wine in with the drippings in the pan. Stir vigorously for a few minutes over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens up. Add more wine or flour if it’s not at your desired consistency. It typically has enough salt and pepper for me leftover from the drippings, but taste it and add more if you need it.
This meal has become an almost weekly addition to our menu because it’s so easy to throw in at the end of the day and then prep the rest of the meal while it roasts in the oven. And, of course, the leftovers work great in any of the rotisserie chicken meals.
*If you have chicken breasts (or other bone-in chicken parts), this method works perfectly for them as well – just reduce the amount of time in the oven and use your thermometer to check when they’re done. Two (bone-in) chicken breasts typically only take 15-20 minutes.