In the world of food, there is little more wholesome and comforting than a golden-brown, crispy-skinned, roasted chicken. Even if you don’t eat the skin, you can’t possibly argue with such pure aesthetics. Honestly, the wholesome perfection of this dish has kept me at bay for years, out of mere intimidation. A whole, roasted chicken reminds me acutely of my childhood, and the perfectly browned birds my mom would pluck from the oven, like magic. I wouldn’t dare tackle something so sacred, for fear that I would ruin it.
Last Sunday, I conquered this insecurity, and made my first roast chicken. I didn’t ruin it; in fact, it was quite delicious. However, it took at least a full hour longer than I expected. In what world does a three and a half pound chicken require over two hours to cook at 400 degrees? This cannot be attributed to the altitude. Rather, psycho cooker has a psycho oven, or at the very least, an oven in dire need of proper calibration. Honestly, even this explanation is not entirely sufficient because this isn’t exactly the first time I used the implicated oven. Perhaps, since my burn fiasco, the oven picked up on the bad vibes, and decided to tone down the temperature as a protective measure for its owner. Ironically, I burned myself again. It was just your average first-degree, kitchen burn, but it still left me feeling sort of pathetic. I was just getting so frustrated with taking that anomaly of a chicken in and out of the oven, that I was being hasty, and nicked my knuckle on the edge of the pan. Note to self: invest in some sort of thermal kitchen glove.
Despite my frustrations and my burnt knuckle, the chicken was lovely: moist and flavorful. I used my mom’s epic seasoning blend (Lawry’s seasoning, garlic salt, pepper, and paprika), and stuffed the bird with lemon and garlic, which truly makes the whole chicken full of flavor. The method I followed was a conglomerate of too many recipes to list, and was mostly influenced by my mom, so I don’t have any specific recipes to reference (Tyler Florence and Ina Garten couldn't hurt). The mixed-breed recipe below should yield a nearly perfect roast chicken, assuming your oven hasn’t been overtaken by poltergeist, like mine. The experts say a chicken is done when the juices run clear after making an incision between the drumstick and the thigh. I’m sure this is true, but it can be difficult to discern. I will supply you with a more obvious (if vulgar) hint: the bird is definitely done when the legs flail apart, in a suggestive manner. I apologize for the graphic depiction, but I assure you, with such imagery embedded in your mind, you’ll know what I am referring to when you see it (see the before and after shots above). However, if you cut into your chicken, and you are horrified by a pink interior, calmly put it back in the roasting pan, cover it loosely with foil, and put it back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean your knife and cutting board, and when the chicken is finally cooked through, and carved up, no one will be the wiser, and hopefully you won’t have any burns to show for it.
Olive oil (lots of it)
1-1½ lbs. red skin potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into chunks
1 onion, peeled and chopped into 6-8 pieces
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, halved
1 3-4 lb. chicken, rinsed and patted dry
The following seasonings to taste:
· Garlic salt
· Lawry’s seasoning salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
· Toss the chopped potatoes and onion with olive oil. Spread them in an even layer on the bottom of a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
· Rub the chicken with a liberal amount of olive oil, and stuff lemon and garlic into the cavity.
· Season the chicken to taste with garlic salt, seasoning salt, paprika, and pepper. Place on top of the bed of potatoes and onion.
· Put the chicken in the oven, and reduce heat to 400. Rotate pan every 20 minutes. If the chicken gets brown too quickly, place an aluminum foil tent over it.
· Cook the chicken for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until juices run clear when the chicken is cut.
· Before carving, allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute.
· Carve the chicken. Serve with the roasted potatoes and wilted spinach or steamed broccoli for an all-American dinner.
· Note: if the chicken is done, and the potatoes are not, put them back in the oven while the chicken rests.
· Additionally, if you’re chicken is taking an inordinate amount of time like mine, the pan drippings may start to burn. Add about ½ to ¾ of a cup of liquid to the pan. Water works, chicken stock is lovely, but a little white wine is best.