A roast chicken dinner is always a satisfying meal to serve or sit down to in any season.
A roasted chicken is the quintessence of comfort food and a perfect platform for many different sides and accompaniments.
From a cooks perspective, this meal is one of the easiest to make, the entire meal can be made in a large roasting pan and requires a minimal amount of attention, your guests will give you that lovely silent thank you (because they are so eager to serve themselves they’ve lost their words!)
But what is the best way to roast a chicken, you may ask? Well, we’ve been thinking about that too. Over the years, we’ve roasted many a bird, sometimes following recipes, sometimes following instincts. But we wanted to define the method we felt made the most delectable roasted chicken, with the least amount of effort.
So, here is what we came up with. Our goal was to perfect a recipe which would produce a roasted chicken with tender, moist meat inside and crispy, golden skin on the exterior. We hope you will have a chance to try out this recipe and will be proud of the beautiful meal you’ve made for your family and friends.
Here are the 5 – B’s to making a splendid roast chicken:
1. Brining…a one hour soak made a big difference, we found 2 hours to be ideal. For us, 3 hours was more than enough (left us feeling a little “pickled”). The brining can be done the day before, and the bird can be left to air dry overnight (the drier skin will allow it to get a little crispier when roasting). The overnight wait is not necessary, however, the chickens in these photos were prepared the same day they were brined, and we were very pleased with the results.
2. Beginning the roasting process with the breast down in the pan. When the chicken begins roasting breast side up, the breast dries out and cooks too fast. When it is down it absorbs the juices dripping down from the bird and the flavors of the stuffing. The bird is turned over during the last part of the roasting, allowing the breast skin to become crispy and brown.
3. Finally, basting with butter! We tried goose fat, a la the famous Parisian bistro L’amis Louis, but found butter really provided better color, texture and flavor. Julia Child recommends massaging the bird with softened butter before roasting…we found topping the bird with slices of butter and then basting well every 15 minutes created the same affect (and your hands don’t get covered with butter!!)
2 quarts water
1/2 cup salt
The brining step can be skipped, but, my gosh, it does produce a more tender, moist bird! The brining can be done the day before, leaving the chicken to air dry over night.
To brine, dissolve 1/2 cup salt into 2 quarts of cool tap water. Place chicken in a large bowl (we use a mixing bowl) and pour salty water over the bird. Cover and refrigerate.
Allow to brine for 1 – 3 hours (we’ve found 2 hours to be ideal).
Rinse chicken well, pat dry. Store in refrigerator overnight or continue preparation immediately. If refrigerating overnight, put it on a bed of paper towels and cover it lightly with plastic wrap.
Splendid Market Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
cooking time 1 hour and 15 – 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1 whole roasting or frying chicken (about 4 pounds), prepared
3 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, washed and peeled (or 1 – 1/2 cups baby carrots, already peeled)
3 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1/8ths
2 Roma tomatoes, topped and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of your favorite rice, prepared (we used a saffron rice)
1 lemon, cut in 1/2
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
If filling with lemon: squeeze lemon juice into cavity, rotate the bird to try to distribute the juice evenly. Mix together the herbs, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
Roll the lemon halves in the seasoning mix and put them into the cavity of the bird.
If filling with rice: Spoon prepared rice into the cavity of the bird.
To secure the bird: cut an 8 inch piece of kitchen twine. Wrap the twine around one of the legs and secure it with a simple knot (leaving about 1-1/2 inch of twine on the short side). Bring legs together, crossing one over the other, closing up the opening. Wrap the twine around the two legs a couple of times and tie the string to secure the legs together.
Preparing the vegetables:
Cut carrot in 1/2 lengthwise and then cut into 2 inch sections (if using whole carrots). Cut celery into 2 inch sections.
Place chicken in roasting pan, breast side down (this keeps the breast meat more tender). Place slices of butter along the backbone.
Scatter chopped vegetables around chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the chicken towards the back of the oven.
Every 15 minutes baste the chicken with the butter in the roasting pan (we like using a suction baster). Also, drizzle a little butter on the vegetables if they are looking dry.
To baste, remove the roasting pan from the oven and close the oven door to keep the heat consistant. Using hot pads, tip the pan slightly so the juices run down to one side of the pan. Using a suction baster, suck up that flavorful juice and bathe the bird in it. Be sure to cover the wings and the sides of the bird.
After 45 minutes (3 bastings), toss vegetables and add the tomato quarters to the pan.
Gently turn the bird over so it is breast side up. Try not to tear the skin when turning. Baste well.
Return chicken to oven. Continue to baste every 10 – 15 minutes.
During the last (estimated) 5 minutes of cooking, warm a platter in the oven.
Here is how to tell if the chicken is finished: Visually, the skin is golden brown and slightly puffed. Rotate the legs, up and down, they should feel very loose. Another way to test for doneness is to prick the leg of the bird in the thickest part, the juices should be clear or yellow, not pink. As you lift the bird from the pan watch the juices which run out of the bird, they should be clear to the very last drop. If they are at all pink, cook the chicken for another 5 minutes and test again.
When chicken and vegetables are finished remove from the oven. Arrange the vegetables on the platter.
Snip the twine securing the legs and empty the cavity, spoon rice in a pile on the platter.
If using lemons be sure to add them as a garnish on the platter.
Carve chicken. Pile up the white meat and arrange the legs and wings on the platter.