December 4, 2013
Tis the season for roast chicken! Cozy and low-maintenance, you can take your time to fancy it up or literally throw it in the oven for an easy dinner that will likely last more than one meal. Hooray for that.
I used to always, 100% of the time roast chicken the way that my Greek grandmother did. I don’t have a special technique to share, I just followed her lead: clean the chicken, pat it dry, throw it in a pan and rub it down with salt, pepper, dried oregano, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon juice.
One of the first times I diverted from yiayia’s old school method, I made this Herb-Butter Roasted Chicken. I’d spent the day at the Stone Barns Center, a non-profit agricultural center and farm outside of bustling New York City and came home with bags full of garlic and butter, veggies and herbs, and even a chicken. Determined to make a meal using all of—and only—my Stone Barns goodies, I decided to make a roast chicken and big salad.
The salad was easy. But the chicken, well, lemons and olive oil aren’t indigenous to New York state. I’d have to change my ways and, thus, my Herb-Rubbed Chicken came to be.
You start this recipe by making kitchen pixie dust, aka compound butter (softened butter that’s been mixed with herbs and spices). In this case, I combine unsalted butter with finely minced garlic and a mix of herbs. Thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and chives are my favorites, but any of your favorite herbs will work. And, okay, I admit that I also throw a little lemon zest in the mix. I can’t help it!
Losen the skin around the breast and spread some of the butter underneath. Then, slather the rest all over the bird, along with lots of salt and pepper. Already having zested a lemon, I throw the whole thing, in two halves, inside the cavity of the bird. Sometimes I truss the chicken, other times I don’t.
Then roast away.
At the end of the day, I admit that a roast chicken done in my grandmother’s style is still my favorite, but that has as much to do with childhood memories as anything else. Plus, I think she would approve of this recipe since it captures the essence of her cooking, which was all about thoughtfully putting together fresh ingredients found locally.
Herb-Butter Roasted Chicken
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Zest of 1 small lemon, plus the lemon, cut in half
1 large (5- to 6-lb) roasting chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup broth or water (optional)
Root veggies or onion slices (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine softened butter with garlic, herbs, and lemon zest; set aside.
2. Wash the bird and pat thoroughly dry. Using a paring knife (to create an opening) and your fingers (to slip through the opening, between the skin and meat), carefully loosen the skin on the chicken breast. Spread some of the butter underneath the skin. Slather the rest of the butter, salt and pepper on the skin, all over the bird.
3. Stuff lemon halves inside the cavity. Place chicken in the roasting pan. If using a rack, place the bird on the rack in a pan and pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the plan. Otherwise, place the bird on a bed of root veggies or slices of onion; if you opt for this approach, you do not need to pour in the water. Once set in the pan, tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the body. Place in the oven and roast, basting every half hour or so, for about 1 1/2 hours or until the skin is golden brown and crisped in places. Exact cooking time will depend on your oven and the exact size of the chicken; cook it until the meatiest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.
4. Remove cooked chicken from oven and tent with aluminum foil. Allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I hold off on meat until baby can safely manage small, cut pieces. This is just a personal preference since I’d rather not puree meat, but you surely can! Just mix the chicken with some yummy veg and pulse into an age appropriate consistency.