Today I went to the Getty Museum with my friend, Selena. It was a cold and brilliantly clear Saturday morning here in Southern California. We had a great time seeing the visiting Vermeer, “Woman In Blue Reading A Letter” and viewing the extensive collection of the Getty. After having lunch and visiting a while with Selena it was time to get home and get dinner started. On a cold day like today, I wanted to cook something that would make the house smell cozy as it cooked and would be a “one pot meal” as well…roast chicken it is!
So that brings me to my quest for the perfect roast chicken. We have all roasted chickens, but they can turn out somewhat dry and tasteless. After doing a lot of research, it seems that the size of the chicken and the temperature of the oven are the most important factors. I first set out to buy at least a 5 lb. chicken, which believe it or not, is not easy to find. When looking for a larger chicken, you will most likely find one that is organic. It may cost a little bit more, but the end result is more flavorful and juicy.
Another secret is giving the chicken a good “bed” to sit on while it roasts. A combination of onions, fennel, carrots, thyme and lemons are wonderful flavors and is a delicious side dish to the roast chicken. Also, a simple mixture of lemon, thyme and a whole head of garlic stuffed inside the cavity of the chicken is a subtile seasoning throughout the bird.
The final secret is roasting in a 425 degree oven for about 2 hours. The high heat gives the chicken a golden skin and ensures that the chicken is completely cooked through. So, set the table, open a bottle of wine and enjoy a perfect roast chicken on a cold winter evening.
The Perfect Roast Chicken
(5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
2 lemons cut into quarters
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
6 – 8 cipollini onions, peeled
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
8-10 fingerling potatoes
2 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle liberally again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, lemon wedges, fennel, cipollini onions and a hand full of thyme sprigs in the bottom a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Total roasting time is 2 hours. First roast the chicken for 1 hour and then add the chicken broth and the fingerling potatoes and baste the chicken. Roast 1 more hour, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables. If you like, make a gravy from the pan drippings with a roux and serve along side the roast chicken.