Roast chickens, I think, are a carnivore’s dream and a veggie’s nightmare. Granted, there is something very carnal about eating an (almost) entire animal, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In the days of nuggets and patties and fingers, there is something very real and very grounded about preparing and eating a chicken as a whole. In my experience, there is not a more satisfying or surprisingly easy thing to make for yourself or for guests, and it this is something you can definitely throw together on the fly. All you really need is a chicken, some olive oil, and some salt and pepper; any other seasonings beyond these are up to you.
I probably started roasting chickens at a too-early age, but it doesn’t take years of practice to be successful. Equipment is definitely your friend in this circumstance – a low-sided roasting pan and a v-rack will make for a perfect end result, since they will allow the entire bird to be exposed to the dry heat of your oven. For this recipe, there are so few ingredients and little prep work, I am just going to write it out in paragraph form. Preheat your oven to 400 F, then rinse your chicken and remove giblets from the cavity of the bird; you can add these to the roasting pan, make giblet stock with them on the stove top, or discard them. Pat your chicken dry with a clean kitchen cloth or paper towels, then rub down with a few small handfuls of olive oil, inside and out. The oil will help the chicken to brown, but also allows salt and pepper to stick a little better; season the inside and outside of the bird with a mixture of both. From here, basic roasting works this way: tuck the wing tips under the bird and set your chicken on its side on the v-rack with one leg up; roast for 20 minutes, then do the same with the other side up. After this, set the chicken on the rack breast-side up and roast for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh. Can’t get any easier, right? Let the chicken rest for about 20 minutes before you try to carve it, and you’ll be very pleased. If you think pictures of this process would be helpful, please let me know. I’ll make roast chicken on Sunday. =)
There are lots of variations on this recipe, and none of them are particularly difficult to do. If I have a lemon that I need to use up, I will pierce it a few times with a fork and place it in the cavity of the bird – you’ll be surprised how much it perfumes the meat and lends a bit of freshness. Another quick way to intensify the flavor is to mince together some garlic and herbs to run under the skin of the bird. Roughly chop together a few cloves of garlic and some basil leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, or whatever other flavorful fresh herbs you might have (this is super easy to do if you have a small food processor). Once I have it chopped into a fine mixture (just shy of pesto), I run my fingers between the skin and flesh of the chicken breast to create pockets for the mixture to reside for the cooking time. You and your guests will be very pleased with the flavor. You could probably use dried herbs for this, as well, but the results will be a bit more earthy.