Roast Chicken

When I cooked roast chicken on TV for Julia Child, she kept saying, “Don’t forget to mention salmonella, dear.” Well, I didn’t mention it, but hinted that using the lemon juice cleans everything up, as well as making the chicken taste wonderful. So I will not talk about that subject here either—except to say always use a cutting board and wash it well along with everything else that has been in contact with uncooked poultry—nor add much more to the millions of words already written about roast chicken.

But I do know that roast chicken can be one of the world’s greatest and easiest dishes if you buy chicken that has as much pedigree as possible (organic, cage free, range-roaming, and so on) and has never seen a plastic covering (if it has, let the chicken dry out for three hours before cooking); wash the chicken with fresh lemon juice half an hour before cooking it; and let the chicken rest for twenty minutes after cooking and before carving.

I think turning the chicken over on its sides and onto its back (and then back again) when it is hot either in or from the oven is a lot of dangerous work for most people, so I start the chicken in a covered casserole just large enough to hold it (2 inches of free space all around) and then uncover it for the last cooking to crisp the skin.

Serve with the oven-roasted vegetables or the oven-baked fruits, or with both.

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Ingredients

  • 1 4-pound fresh roasting chicken
  • 2 whole lemons
  • 1 head fresh garlic cloves, separated, skin on, smashed with a cleaver
  • 4 slices bacon (wood smoked if possible), finely chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

If the chicken comes in a plastic bag, take it out, rinse it under cold water inside and out, pat dry inside and out, and let sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 3 hours. Take it out and let it come to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice over and inside the chicken, and then rub it in. Season the cavity of the chicken, then put the lemon halves and garlic cloves in the cavity.

Loosen the skin of the breast at the rear of the chicken, and gently insinuate all your fingers under the skin, moving down the sides and up to the front. Then take the bacon in your fingers and push it under the skin evenly all over the breast.

Rub the chicken with the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff half the herbs in the cavity and put the other half in the casserole. Put the chicken in the casserole, cover, and put in the oven.

Cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 for another 20 minutes. Uncover, turn the heat to 400, and finish cooking the chicken for 15 minutes. Insert a skewer in the thighs to see if the juices run clear. When they do, remove the chicken and let it rest for 20 minutes in a warm place (on the open oven door with the oven turned off).

Put the chicken onto a hot platter. While the chicken is resting, strain the juices in the casserole and remove the fat floating on top. Wipe any fat out of the casserole with paper towels, and pour the defatted juices back in the casserole. Heat the casserole on the stove and stir the juices to dislodge any of the bits that are stuck to the casserole. You can use chicken stock or red or white wine to help with this process if there are not a lot of juices. Season the juices and serve them with the chicken.

Variations

Stuff mushroom hash mixed in equal quantities with the bacon under the skin, or use chopped fresh black truffles and bacon. And see the tagine.

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