To me, a fragrant roasted chicken is one of the most elegant dishes that can ever be made as well as the best comfort food around. It is also very easy to prepare and serve, making it the perfect Sunday dinner or anytime feast, especially during the insanity of the holidays! The delightful free range bird that I slowly roasted last weekend ended up minced into a paste of blue cheese, mushrooms and onion and stuffed into sandwiches on Monday, as curry on Tuesday and as a fragrant chicken soup on Wednesday! I am picky and I'll only use free range organic chicken, and this is for many reasons but mostly because they really do taste better to me and I abhor the inhumanity of factory farming practices.
I am also very sensitive to hormones and antibiotics so I don't get the same physical reaction from the organic birds as I do the others. Thankfully in 2014 I don't need to go into all of the reasons that they are safer to eat than factory farmed birds. Besides, it's so much fun to go to the local farmers market if you have one near , choose your own chicken and talk to the farmers that raised it. They'll have great tips for you about cooking it and for me, that really enhances the pleasure!
Warning! This is not a low calorie, low cholesterol recipe, however all things in moderation right?
To start , I rinse the bird inside and out, neck, gizzards and all. To be truthful, I roast the "nasty bits" (as Anthony Bourdain calls them!) but never eat them! It can't be denied though that they lend a wonderful flavor to the drippings as they are roasting and I do love a rich gravy. After the bird is rinsed, I take a roasting pan and lay a mirepoix of fresh vegetables on the bottom. A mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, onions and celery, (although I like them chunkier!) and is an excellent moist base for many different types of roasts including pork and beef. I like to season the vegetables with a teaspoon of fresh sage and a bit of salt and pepper, but it's not necessary.
Next I soften a stick of salted butter and add to that about a tablespoon of white truffle oil, some truffle paste if you can find it (a little goes a long way!), and some dried herb's de provence. You can also use a mixture of Boursin cheese (the garlic and herb type) mixed with the butter. With both hands gently start from the opened cavity and loosen the skin from the bird without removing it. Really what you are trying to do is just get room between the skin and the meat so that you can season it.
Then take liberal handfuls of the butter mixture and rub it underneath of the skin onto the breast meat. Take whatever butter is left and rub it onto the the skin. Sometimes I take several slices of really good bacon and lay them on top of the chicken as well, as it really flavors the pan drippings. Then, take one large yellow onion and quarter it, one meyer lemon (cut in half) and several good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary and stuff it into the cavity of the bird. Finally add a cup of white wine that you've added about 2 tablespoons of a poultry demi glace to but no more liquid. You will probably need to add a bit more water along the way, but you never want the mixture to be "juicy"!
Place the chicken breast side up onto the vegetables and put the whole thing into a 375 degree oven. I tend to roast my chicken slowly, basting frequently. After about 50 minutes, I turn the chicken upside down so that the juices from the dark meat flow into the breast, keeping the whole bird moist. I roast the chicken like that for another 1/2 hour and then turn it right side up. At this point it will definitely be browning but not yet crackly and golden. Turn the heat up a little bit and watch carefully. Keep basting the chicken with the drippings for about another 15 minutes and it will reward you with a golden skin and very moist,flavorful meat.
Take the chicken out of the pan and place it on a wooden carving board so that it can rest for a few minutes because as it cool the juices will settle back into the bird. If you carve it when it is hot, the meat will be very dry. Take the roasting pan and place it on the top burners of your stove and turn the burners onto medium. Reduce the pan mixture by about a third (whisking consistently...you want to get the good browned bits up!) and then add 1 cup of sherry that you have enhanced with a tablespoon of the demi glace base, 1 scant tablespoon of saucing flour and a pressed clove of garlic. Whisk the wine mixture into the sauce and let it cook for a few minutes and then add a good knob of butter which will give the sauce a lovely sheen. I have added sliced mushrooms to the sauce as well with delicious results.
Remove the vegetables from inside the bird and discard. Slice the chicken and serve each portion with a few tablespoons of the sauce. I love to serve a simple steamed asparagus with this, and some lightly buttered egg noodles or of course minted peas and mashed potatoes. A yummy chilled white wine (or champagne!) completes this feast but don't forget sparking white grape juice or cider this holiday season for those who don't want the alcohol. Enjoy with family , friends, great stories and good cheer!
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