By Becky Duffett, my former Stanford Equestrian teammate and author of How To Feed Yourself: Recipes for Real Life from a Young and Hungry Foodie. The book aims at recent grads, newlyweds, twenty-somethings—or, I’d venture to suggest, horse people who mix a killer bran mash in the wheelbarrow but tend to veer away from the stove, toward the takeout-menus drawer. But the recipes are not your typical dumbed-down beginner’s fare. Becky’s witty writing and scrumptious cooking make this book a winner for anyone’s kitchen library.
Whether you’re a chicken-roasting newbie or an old pro looking for tips to jazz up your technique, give this recipe a go.
Excerpted from the book:
Roasting a whole chicken might sound daunting, but it’s actually incredibly easy: rub it down with butter and herbs and bang it in the oven. Plus, it’s always cheaper to buy a whole chicken than cut-up pieces. Just make sure to open a window and get the kitchen fan going—small apartments can have sensitive smoke alarms. Combining high heat, butter, and a chubby chicken tends to produce a bit of smoke, but don’t let that deter you. Delectably crispy skin is worth waving some magazines around.
1 whole chicken, about 4–5 lb (2–2.5 kg)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the herb butter:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, such as thyme, oregano, and marjoram leaves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
A few hours ahead or up to the night before, set out a roasting pan or a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking pan and place a v-shaped rack inside, if you have one. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place on the rack or directly in the pan. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt, inside and out. Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Pull the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. To make the herb butter, in a small bowl, add the butter, herbs, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and a generous grind of pepper and mash with a fork. Slip your fingers under the chicken skin, gently loosening the skin from the meat. Massage the herb butter between the skin and the meat, over the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, as far as you can reach without tearing the skin. (If that sounds like too much bother, just rub the herb butter all over the bird, putting plenty on the breast.) Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. If you like, take a short piece of kitchen twine, and tie the legs together (but again, you don’t have to).
Roast the chicken until golden and crispy, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the bird, until a drumstick feels loose in the joint when you wiggle it, and the juices run clear when you pierce a thigh with a paring knife. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
Carve the chicken into breasts, wings, drumsticks, and thighs. Place one or two pieces on each plate and serve warm.
Prep Tip: Sprinkling the chicken inside and out with salt is a restaurant trick that helps by giving it a mini brine before roasting. That means extra juicy meat and savory skin. You can do this a few hours ahead, or even the night before, which is helpful on busy weeknights. But if you forget, don’t worry about it. Your chicken will still be buttery and delicious.
Recipe copyright of Becky Duffett. Photos by Matt Schriock.
Becky Duffett is a writer and editor specializing in lifestyle content, including cooking, entertainment, and parenting. For several years, she worked on the Williams-Sonoma cookbook program. An avid amateur gourmet and aspiring domestic goddess, she spends most weekends dodging strollers and puppies at the farmer’s market, trying to read at the bakery, or roasting big dinners for friends. She lives in San Francisco.