Lately, I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect roasted chicken. After some rigorous research and a few experiments, I think I have found a winner. Not only does this recipe produce amazing results, it’s quite possibly one of the easiest things I’ve made. This recipe is meant to pay homage to the magnificence of the bird we all know and love, the chicken. Being both a foodie and a student at a hippie school, I do encourage you to buy a free range chicken if possible. It really does taste better. But then again, I was on a budget and I bought a generic grocery store chicken, and it turned out great. As long as you follow a few simple rules, you can make this the best chicken you have ever tasted: use a compound butter, get it under the skin, season the entire chicken, and be patient while its roasting. Make modifications to the recipe as per your taste, but this is what I find works best. You will be rewarded with a juicy, flavorful chicken with delightful amounts of crispy, golden skin.
-1 whole chicken (4 or 5 pounds) -1 onion sliced equatorially four times -1 lemon -6 cloves of garlic -1 tablespoon Kosher salt -1 tablespoon pepper -1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary plus a few extra sprigs -1 1/2 teaspoons thyme plus a few extra sprigs -6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Take out the giblets from the cavity and sprinkle the entire chicken very liberally with kosher salt, even in the cavity. Place on a plate in the fridge for 1 - 2 hours.
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the butter come up to room temperature. Zest half the lemon and finely mince the herbs and one clove of garlic. Throw the lemon zest, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper into a bowl with the softened butter. Mash the mixture together with a fork until it becomes well incorporated. Let this sit for at least 15 minutes.
Stuff the cavity with a lemon half, the rest of the sprigs of herbs, and the rest of the cloves of garlic. With the chicken sitting breast side up, separate the skin from the meat of the breasts, while still leaving the skin intact and on the chicken. Whatever you do, don’t break the skin! This will make your chicken dry. If you can do this with the thigh as well by making very small incisions on the back and working inwards, do it. If not, then don’t bother.
Take about 1/4 of the compound butter and put it under the skin of one breast, and do the same with the other breast. If you were able to separate the skin and meat on the thigh, add a little compound into that area as well. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed. Now take the rest of the butter and smear it over the chicken. It will most likely stay in clumps which is okay, just make sure they are in small, evenly dispersed clumps.
Place the onion slices down in a cast iron skillet or oven safe dish, so that the chicken is elevated from the bottom of the pan (this will help it from getting soggy with it’s cooking juices). Transfer the chicken to the cast iron skillet or oven safe dish. Fold the tips of the wings under the bird and tie the legs together.
Roast for about an hour, until the internal temperature of the thigh is 162 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, just poke the thigh with a knife and if the juice runs completely clear, it’s done. Usually, it takes just over an hour. I used a five pound bird, and it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for at least 15 minutes, tented loosely with a piece of foil. Carve and serve. For clearer instructions than I can really give in a written article, watch Alton Brown carve a turkey. It’s the same shape of bird, just bigger, so it’s the same technique. Disregard the part about slicing each section though. It’s better if the skin stays intact for this chicken.