I’m a rustic cook. I don’t like to fuss much and I favor the simple but fabulous. This is especially evident when I cook a chicken. Butter under the skin? Brining? Trussing? Too involved, and generally not for me. I like a simpler approach: shove some herbs and aromatics into the chicken and just roast it. This is one of the easiest things in the world to cook. There’s a little prep, then an hour or so of unattended roasting, giving the cook lots of time to assemble the rest of supper.
Simple but fabulous demands good ingredients to start with. I get my chicken from a producer at my local farmers’ market (thanks, Otto’s!) and my herbs from the garden patch just outside my kitchen door. I favor classic combinations. The aromatics I use most often are lemon or onion – both will add moisture and flavor to the chicken. My standby herbs are rosemary, sage, or thyme. Experiment to find your own combinations!
Simple Roast Chicken
- 1 whole roasting chicken, about 4 lbs
- fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, thyme, or sage are my favorites)
- aromatic of your choice (lemon or onion)
- 2 tsp salt
- oil for slathering
Heat oven to 375˚F. Prep the chicken: if the neck and/or giblets have been stuffed into the cavity, remove them. We don’t use them this time. Drain any liquid that has accumulated in the cavity, or if you prefer, sop it up with a paper towel.
Now sprinkle the salt around the inside of the cavity. I aim a spoon in there and just shake it around. Stick in some fresh herbs – for rosemary, I use 2 or 3 3″ branches; for sage, a little bundle of 5-6 leaves. Chop your aromatic roughly, in 1 to 1.5 inch chunks, and stuff those in there too.
Set the chicken on its back on a roasting rack in a low sided pan. I like to cross its little wings under its ‘shoulders’ to make a nice platform, but that’s up to you. I never truss the bird, but if you like to do it, go ahead.
Take a handful of oil and slather the bird as if you were smoothing on suntan oil. Actually, in a way, you’re doing just that: it will help the skin get nice and brown.
Roast, uncovered, for about an hour and 15 minutes. Test for doneness: stick the tip of a small knife into the thigh, and if the juices run clear, it’s ready. You can try to use an instant-read thermometer – insert it into the thickest part of the thigh, but not near bone or fat, and look for a reading of 175. (I say good luck with that, I never can get it in the right place.) My shortcut test: ‘shake hands’ with the drumstick. If the bone comes right off, the chicken is done!
Remove from the oven, and let the chicken stand 10 minutes. Discard aromatics and herbs, carve, and serve.
Cook’s tip: save the skin and bones! In my next post, I’ll let you know how to produce liquid gold from what some people just think of as garbage.