Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Easy Weeknight Roast Chicken

This is the weeknight dinner you can throw in the oven and ignore until it's time to eat. It's oh-so-moist and tender, has a rather gorgeous crisp skin and creates its own gravy. What more could you want?

Yes, it does take a while to cook, but you can do the advance prep (up until you put it in the oven) in the morning or the night before and put it in the fridge. Then when you come home from work, just put it right in the oven once you've preheated it.

Like most of my recipes, this is one you can tweak with whatever you have, but please, please, please don't leave out the citrus - that's where all the moistness comes from!

What you'll need:
  • A chicken - 8lb is what I used here. I get free range hormone and antibiotic free ones from the farmer's market
  • Baby potatoes
  • 3 onions
  • 2 pods of garlic (yes, the whole thing!)
  • Olive Oil
  • a lemon and an orange
  • Bay leaves
  • seasonings and herbs

OK! Start by drizzling a good amount of olive oil in your pan. You can also turn your oven on to 450 degrees farenheit to preheat.

Take your baby potatoes, scrub them and cut them in half and toss them in the pan.

Now cut up some onions and, leaving the root intact (see this post for a how-to), cut each half into thirds. There are 3 medium onions here. Put them in the pan along with about a teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and some bay leaves if you have them (I used 4).

I like to rinse my chicken and then pat it dry. I also tend to rip out any really big globs of fat and toss them. You can do this and then plop it down on top of your veg.

Then take half and orange and a whole lemon and chop it roughly. You'll then put these up the chicken's bum, or more politely, the cavity. This will moisten your chicken from the inside out and help create really yummy pan juices.

Now drizzle a bit more olive oil over the skin of the bird (I like to rub it around so I'm not drowning it in oil) and sprinkle another teaspoon (or so) of salt, some black pepper and whatever herbs you have on hand. Fresh thyme, rosemary, and/or sage is nice. I happened to have a packet of Herbes de Provence on hand that a friend brought me (from France) so I used that.

I also put some whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic in the pan - as many as I have. I used 2 whole pods of garlic here!

Now bung it in the oven, which should be up to temperature. Set your timer for 30 mins. I call this the half-hour-sizzle (a term stolen from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, my fave meat cookbook writer). Then reduce your temperature to 350 and cook for another hour and a half or so (for an 8 lb bird). You don't have to check on it or baste it. You could even go out. This should be ample time to cook your chicken fully, but if you aren't sure, pull the leg away from the body. It should yield easily and reveal a hip joint (I think it's really called the thigh joint, but you know what I mean) that isn't at all bloody or pink.

I like to serve this with a green salad for maximum ease. Spoon some of the pan juices over the potatoes and onions on each plate and suck the garlic cloves free of their skin as you devour them with the succulent chicken.