One of the cornerstones of my “personal cuisine manifesto”™ is the roast chicken. Now I know I have already done the quick and easy set it and forget it version but the best thing about chicken is that it’s a very blank canvas and offers the adventurous cook an awesome starting place for exploring different flavor combinations. This roast chicken requires a bit more handling of the bird including inserting a compound butter (fancy way of saying butter with herbs and or spices mixed in). I have started with a simple butter mixed with rosemary in the recipe but you can experiment with different combinations. in fact, it would be a really interesting way to take a kind of global culinary tour to use a spice combination from a different culture in the compound butter each time you roasted a chicken.
The one caveat I would throw in at the is point is that when you decide to start messing with other flavor combinations, consider how you are planning on using the leftover chicken when you are figuring out your spice mix. That is to say don’t think you are going to be able to get away with a nice, delicate chicken over pasta and sautéed spinach with an alfredo sauce if you roast the chicken using an aggressively spiced middle eastern inspired compound butter full of cumin, coriander, turmeric, etc.
- Heavy oven safe pot like a large dutch oven
- Chef’s knife
- Big bowl
- 1 cup ramekin or similar small bowl
- Regular table teaspoon or iced tea spoon
- Wooden spoon
- Large tongs
- Large roasting chicken (6-7 lbs, preferably organic but at the very least not fed GMO food)
- Olive oil
- Fresh rosemary, one or two stalks
- 6 tablespoons butter (sometimes I use a whole stick) at room temperature
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 onions (I sometimes use one fennel bulb and one onion for something a little different)
- 2 heads of garlic
- Coarse sea salt
Time: Just under 2 hours: About 10-15 minutes prep time + 1.5 hours cooking + 10 minutes resting
Serves: Probably 8 people if you have 2 people who like dark meat. But as with the other roast chicken recipe, the goal is to have leftovers to use for making other stuff.
- Put the Dutch oven in the real oven
- Set the oven to 425º
- Cut the onions in half, remove the skins, slice thin half circles of onion and set them aside in a big bowl
- Remove the papery outer skin of the garlic and break up the cloves then throw them in with the onions. Leave the tough inner cover on the cloves.
- Strip the rosemary leaves from the stalks
- Chop up the rosemary and dump it in the ramekin
- Cut the butter into 3 pieces and drop them in the ramekin
- Remove the bag of guts from the chicken and throw it away
- Cut the spine out of the chicken being careful not to amputate your fingers. I find the best method is to start with the chicken pointing butt up to get started. Then when you get about to the thigh bone, lay the chicken on its stomach and carefully try to slide the knife in between the thigh and the spine. From there the ribs are pretty easy to get through. When you go to start on the next side, trying the butt in air technique will not really work since the newly freed side of the chicken will just flop around in the wind negating any additional help you may get from the force of gravity. The big trick is avoiding hacking into the thigh bone at the hip joint since that’s a lot harder to cur through than the ribs. Of course, the other trick is to avoid hacking into your thumb or any other part of your hand for that matter. Congratulations, you have just spatchcocked a chicken!
- Throw away the spine (or put it in a freezer bag for making stock later)
- Flip the chicken over so that the breasts are facing up then press down on the center of the chest to flatten the chicken. You should hear a satisfying pop.
- Using your fingers and working in from the butt area, separate the breast skin on both sides from the breast meat without tearing the skin. You’re looking to create a space you can get into with a spoon.
- Using the spoon, mash the butter and rosemary together until they form a green flecked yellow paste
- Use the spoon to jam the rosemary butter up under the skin. Once you have most of the butter in there, use your fingers to extract the last of the butter from the little bowl and give the chicken a little massage. It’s the least you can do after cutting out the poor thing’s spine, cracking its breast bone, then ripping the skin from its muscles (hungry yet?) It also works the butter around more evenly under the skin.
- Wash and dry your hands
- NOTE: FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE RECIPE YOU SHOULD HAVE A LITTLE VOICE SCREAMING IN YOUR HEAD “THAT POT IS REALLY HOT AND I SHOULD NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TOUCH IT WITHOUT SOME FORM OF PROTECTION THAT WILL PROTECT ME FROM BURNING MYSELF!!!!!” because the pot is really hot.
- Put on your oven mitts and remove the extremely hot pot from the oven and set it on the stove or a very, very reliable trivet
- Dump in half of the onion/garlic mix and spread it around with a wooden spoon (so that you don’t burn yourself) Don’t forget to smile at the satisfying sizzling noise the onions make when you put them in the scalding hot pot. You are smiling because that is the sound of cooking and because if you weren’t so smart that sound could be the sound that accompanies the searing pain as your flesh begins to blister because you touched the really hot pot without any protection
- Place the chicken in the pot on top of the onion/garlic skin side down
- Pour a few tablespoons (this does not require a scientific measurement) of olive oil on the exposed chicken followed by a fair helping of sea salt
- Dump in the remaining onion/garlic
- Put your oven mitts back on and put the pot in the oven
- Set your timer for 45 minutes.
- Drink a glass of wine, listen to some music, go running, read more recipes on an exceptional cooking blog, whatever you do to chill out.
- When 45 minutes are up, put on your oven mitts, remove the pot from the oven and place it back on the stove top
- Using the tongs, CAREFULLY flip the chicken over so that it is skin side up
- Sometimes I add a little more olive oil, sometimes I don’t but you should definitely add a bit of sea salt and then pour in the wine
- Put your oven mitts back on (I really don’t want you to burn yourself) and put the chicken back in the oven for another 45 minutes
- At this point, unless you are just roasting the chicken for sandwich meat/leftovers, you should probably be working on sides/deserts so go get ’em. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus with roast chicken.
- After 45 minutes put on your oven mitts and remove the pot from the oven.
- Set it on the stove and use the tongs to take the chicken out and put it on a plate
- Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving and eating. Try very hard not to pull off the crispy skin from the thighs. On the other hand, you just put in 2 hours of work and you deserve a treat so screw it, tear off the skin and crunch away! There may also be some crunchy, charred onion bits, get those too, they rock.
- BONUS ROUND! If you are so inclined, while the chicken is resting, you can add a little more wine to the juices in the pot and put it over low heat on the stove to make a really nice sauce.
NOTE: The onion (and fennel if you used it) in the bottom of the pan can be cooled and put in a jar along with all that fatty chicken goodness it’s sitting in to be refrigerated for later use. I usually try to save about a cup of it. It’s super handy for adding a little unctuousness to super lean burger meat like bison or ostrich an it saves you the trouble of buying caramelized onions.