While my palate has evolved to the point one might consider “adventurous”, I still suffer from insecurity as a cook. There are certain kitchen tasks that have intimidated me, and that I’ve avoided at all costs. But no longer.
Towards the end of a lovely visit with my grandparents, a whole chicken was taken out of the deep freeze and placed into my arms. This little fowl hails from my uncle’s chicken farm in Pennsylvania. (Yes, two uncles with organic farms. Lucky me.)
I knew it was time for me to get over my fear of intact fowl and roast a chicken. But something about cooking a whole chicken has always unnerved me a bit. There is that damn body cavity to content with, for starters. There are things called “gizzards” to pull out. There is the awful sensation of the chicken skin sliding over the body and the little wings flopping around and the legs splayed and the decapitated head and…it just disturbed me. I must confess that I almost lost it completely when I discovered, after defrosting, that my uncle’s chickens come with the neck still fully attached. A chicken neck is much longer, bonier, and more horrifying that I could have imagined. It was quickly dispatched with a meat cleaver.
Other than dealing with the unexpected appendage, I was shocked to find that roasting a chicken was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in the kitchen. This chicken came out moist and peppery, and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. It only took about 15-20 minutes to prep, and just over an hour to roast. This fed us dinner for a few days. We enjoyed the whole dinner the first night, made chicken panini’s with leftover vegetables on the side the second night, and chicken stock the third night for a future soup.
Here’s what you need:
1 whole chicken, defrosted and brought to room temperature.
6 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled.
4 carrots, washed, peeled, cut in thirds.
3 parsnips, washed, cut in thirds.
2 turnips, washed, ends cut off, cut into quarters.
2 small sweet onions, peeled, cut in quarters.
8 small red potatoes, washed.
2 leeks (prep information below)
6 springs of thyme
half a stick of unsalted butter, brought to room temperature.
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
poultry thermometer (not totally necessary).
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
Prep the vegetables:
To prep the leeks, cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks and discard. Cut off the root ends and discard. Slit the leeks lengthwise with a parking knife, cutting down halfway through the leek. Open them up and rinse well under warm water. Place leeks in a large bowl. Add your chopped carrots, chopped parsnips, 3 cloves of garlic, quartered turnips, quartered onions, and whole red potatoes. Add 2 springs of thyme. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, and season with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper. (A few shakes of the salt, don’t go crazy, and a few shakes of the pepper.) Get in there with your hands and mix everything up so that all your vegetables are coated with oil, salt, and pepper. Pour all of this out into the bottom of your roasting pan. (I simply bought a disposable roasting pan at the grocery store for $1.00. Easy cleanup.)
Prep the chicken:
If your chicken comes with a bag of gizzards, remove this bag from the cavity. My mother always cooked up the gizzards and ate them, but she’s crazy like that. You’ll probably be throwing them away. If your chicken (God forbid) comes with it’s neck attached, cut this off with a meat cleaver and discard. Wash the chicken all over with cool water. Rub the inside of the cavity with olive oil (I just pour a little into my hand), salt, and pepper. Place the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and 4 sprigs of thyme into the cavity. Truss the chicken with a piece of string or twine. (This means tie it’s little legs closed). Rub the body of the chicken with more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Keep a kitchen towel or paper towels handy, because this gets messy.
Many recipes say to make a little nest in your pile of vegetables and place the chicken in it, directly with the vegetables. I was fearful of soggy-bottomed chicken, so I placed my chicken on a non-stick shelf over the vegetables. You can see this in the photo. I bought this at the grocery store in the baking aisle. I think it was about $4.00. It was great, because all of the chicken skin got nice and crispy, and the drippings made the vegetables delicious. After I placed the chicken on the shelf, I cut my half stick of butter into 6 slices and placed these butter pats directly on the chicken. I tucked a few under the wings and legs, and placed a few right on top. After I adjusted my oven shelf to make room for the whole thing, I placed my roasting pan into the oven.
Roast for 25 minutes at 475 degrees. Then lower your oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast for an additional 45 minutes.
You can tell a chicken is thoroughly cooked if you can easily pull off one of the legs. I have a poultry thermometer, so I used that to double check. A whole chicken should be cooked to 160 degrees in the meatiest portions. I found this to be cooked perfectly. It was moist, fall-off-the-bone, and had crispy skin. Simply return to the oven for 5 minute increments if you feel your chicken needs more time.
Move your roasted chicken to a platter or cutting board. Turn your vegetables with a spoon so that they are fully glazed with all the pan juices. Carve off your favorite pieces and enjoy!
I know that this is a long and at-first-glance complicated post, but this was actually very easy to make. I was scared at first, but try it! I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself.