I love roasting a chicken. It gives me such a slightly deceptive sense of accomplishment. I say deceptive because, really, other than seasoning it and then plopping it in a roasting pan scattered with vegetables, there's not a whole lot of talent or technique involved or required (carving the cooked bird, however, is a different matter, and one that I have not yet mastered).
Usually whenever I roast a chicken I just slice a lemon and a head of garlic in half and stuff them in the cavity, drizzle the skin with olive oil, and slide it in the oven for an hour or so. And then I drink some wine while the chickeny aroma fills the kitchen.
This recipe comes from the beautiful Balthazar cookbook and the method is a little different than the I am used to. Instead of coating the chicken skin with olive oil, herbed butter is squidged around under the skin. Then, rather than just putting the whole thing in the oven, the bird is first browned in a roasting pan on top of the stove. I sort of questioned how necessary this step was, but according to the book, patrons of the restaurant loved the chicken so who was I to argue?
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
6 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
8 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) room temperature unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3 1/2 pound chicken, rinsed and dried (I used 2 chickens slightly under 5 pounds because I wanted leftovers. However, other than the garlic and the olive oil, I did not double the other quatities.)
1 head of garlic, sliced horizontally in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound bag of peeled baby carrots
1 medium celery root, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks
8 ounces cremini (Baby Bella) or button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimed, and quartered
1/2 or so cup of white wine
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine half the rosemary, thyme and parsley with the softened butter, using a fork to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
Gently loosen the skin from the breast meat. Slide in a small dab of the herb butter. Massage the skin a little to work the butter around. Next do the same thing to the skin on the back. Season the cavity with salt, pepper and stuff in the leftover chopped herbs and the garlic. Smear the skin with any remaining herb butter and season with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with a small piece of butcher's twine and fold the wings under. The
Over a high flame, heat the olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof saute pan or roasting pan until it smokes. Place the bird on its side, searing the leg and breast. Leave it untouched in the pan for about 4 minutes unbtil the skin has turned golden brown. The cookbook used the word "burnished" which I sort of love. Using a pair of tongs, turn to brown the other breast, and then the top and bottom of the bird, being carefull not to pierce the skin with said tongs.
At this point add the vegetables and toss to coat in the olive oil and rendered chicken fat. Add the chicken stock and place the pan in the oven. Roast the chicken for about 40 minutes (for 5 pound birds, I roasted them for 1 hour). If the chicken starts to get too dark, cover with a loose foil tent. To test for doneness, pierce the joint where the leg connects to the body - the juices should run clear (the internal temperature should be 155 degrees F).
Remove the chicken and vegetables from the roasting pan and cover with foil. Place the pan on the stove over a high heat. If it seems to oily, remove some of the fat with a spoon. Add the wine and deglaze the pan to make the pan sauce. Continue to cook the sauce until it's reduced by half and thickened. You probably won't need to add any flour or anything, although I did add about a teaspoon of butter right at the end.
I served the chicken with the roasted vegetables, buttered egg noodles, and some grilled zucchini, which in retrospect, Annie and I agreed were a little superfluous. The noodles and the roasted vegetables were more than enough.
The herbed butter under the salty, crispy, bronzed skin soaks and flavors the meat, rendering it succulantly moist. I was talking to a co-worked this afternoon who has used this same recipe and he remarked that the herbed butter technique also works especially well on turkey, since it has a tendency to dry out.
The vegetables, glistening with chicken juices and melted butter and flecked with the chopped parsley, thyme and rosemary are soft but still have some body. I have to say, I loved the celery root. It's evocotive of a parsnip or a potato but has a kind of light, freshness. It works well with the carrots and the mushrooms, of course you could do any combination of vegetables you like, but be sure to make a lot. They shrink down during the roasting and because they are so flavorful, you'll wind up eating more than you expect to. Especially when everything is drizzled with the winey gravy.
One thing I'd like to note, is the step in which the chicken is browned on the stove top, did in the end, seem unecessary. It was a little cumbersome trying to ballance the bird on it's side in the roasting pan and then turn it with out ripping the skin, although it might be because I was attempting to brown two chickens simultaneously. Next time I think I might skip it.
Depending on the size, one chicken should serve 4. Also don't forget to keep the carcass to make stock.