To me, roast chicken is one of the simplest and most elegant dishes that can ever be made. It is also very easy to prepare and serve, making it the perfect Sunday dinner or anytime feast! The delightful free range bird that I roasted last weekend ended up in sandwiches on Monday, stir fry with snow peas and sesame on Tuesday and as a full throttle chicken soup on Wednesday! I do like free range organic birds better, mostly because they really do taste healthier to me.
I am sensitive to hormones and antibiotics and I don't get the same physical reaction from the organic birds as I do the others. It's no secret anymore that organic birds are safer because they are usually not exposed to the many disgusting types of bacteria that have definitely been found in all of the factory farms. Besides, it's so much fun to go to the local farmers market or butcher if you have one near , choose your own chicken and talk to the farmers that raised it. For me, that will always enhance the pleasure!
Warning! This is not a low calorie, low cholesterol recipe! However ...All things in moderation! 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! They do lend a wonderful flavor to the drippings as they are roasting and they are essential for making great gravy! After my bird is rinsed, I take a roasting pan with a roasting rack and lay a mirepoix of fresh vegetables on the bottom. A mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, onions and celery, and is an excellent moist base for many different types of roasts. 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 (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...Yummm! 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 good 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 lemon (cut in half) and several good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary and stuff it into the cavity of the bird. Finally add a 1/2 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of white vermouth. You will probably need to add a bit more water along the way, but you never want the mixture to be too "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 too hot, the meat will turn out to be very dry.
For a simply beautiful sauce, take the roasting pan and place it on the top burners of your stove, turning them onto medium. Reduce the pan mixture by about a third (deglazing constantly...you want to get the good browned bits up!) and then add 1 cup of white wine that you have enhanced with a tablespoon of a good organic chicken stock base (or bouillon) 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 dollop of fresh cream, about 1/3 of a cup. Let this continue to reduce and then whisk in a couple of tablespoons of a beurre manie' that you've made of equal parts flour and fresh butter and let it cook for a minute or two longer. This simple addition will give the sauce a lovely sheen. 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. A yummy chilled white wine (or champagne!) completes the feast but don't forget sparking white grape juice or cider for those who don't want the alcohol. Enjoy with family , friends and good stories by candlelight.