I used to be afraid to cook a whole chicken. I guess I wouldn’t really say “afraid”, I just didn’t want to put in the effort. I cook our family’s Thanksgiving turkey every other year and that is easy as can be. Clean the bird out, throw some garlic or what have you inside, truss it and set it on some thickly cut onions and carrots and roast ’til it’s brown and lovely. As a bonus for all of that hard work (preparing the side dishes) you get leftovers for weeks. A chicken, however, seemed to require all sorts of attention for not a whole lot of meat (and don’t even get me started on Cornish hens). According to all the recipes I’d seen if you want your chicken to be worth eating, not only do you have to baste it, you’ve got to slip butter and herbs and whatnot under its skin. It’s not enough you’ve got to stick your hand in its guts to dry the sucker out, now you’ve got to put your hand in between the meet and skin! I cry fowl.
Here’s the good news. That’s all a bunch of hogwash. Or chickenwash, as the case may be. You can have a lovely, juicy, delicious roast chicken without a bunch of hassle and in about an hour. You can even have it with whatever flavors you want. Garlic and tarragon? Lemon and rosemary? Cranberry and sage (who says turkeys get to have all the fun)? Done.
Step 1: Buy a 4 to 5 pound chicken
Step 2: Heat the oven to 425 degrees
Step 3: Pull out the gizzards, neck, etc., from the chicken and then rinse and pat the bird dry inside and out
Step 3 (optional): Put the gizzards, neck, etc. in a pot, cover with water, and simmer while the chicken cooks. I say optional, but this will give you broth for gravy if you choose to make it.
Step 4: Cut up lemon, garlic, onion, whatever, and throw it inside the chicken with whatever seasoning you’re using.
Step 5: Take that seasoning and mix it with butter, margarine or olive oil.
Step 6: Rub that mixture all over the chicken. Yes, with your hands.
Step 7: Put the chicken back down in a foil-lined pan. No rack, no trussing. Just throw it in there.
Step 8: Roast for ~1 hour. A meat thermometer should read 165°. Make sure you’re not touching a bone.
Ta da! Your house now smells divine and you have a beautiful bird just waiting to be carved.
While it’s sitting there you might as well make some gravy. Scrape any bits from the foil in the roasting pan and put them in a skillet. Mix some of the broth from those gizzards that have been simmering with some corn starch and pour that in with the bits. Stir until the whole thing boils, then add more broth and some salt and pepper. If you want it creamy you can add some milk. The key to the gravy is to stir constantly. What this means for you is somebody else gets to carve (mwa ha ha).
You’re not quite done…After you’ve gotten as much meat off of that chicken as possible, throw the bones in a stock pot, cover it with water, and simmer. Homemade chicken stock! I’ll sometimes put that in ice cube trays and freeze them so I have individual servings for sauces later on.