My Grandma Marion used to roast a chicken every Friday night as a family tradition. I can remember going to her house and having leftover chicken mixed into a delicious homemade chicken and rice soup. She and my Grandfather loved food and cooking. As it turns out, I too love roasting a chicken, especially when it is cold outside or if we’re having a special dinner. I don’t do it every week, but it is a frequent meal in our home. You can do so much with a roaster – it’s not just a fantastic way to feed a family of 4-6 people. It can be bones for chicken stock that will help you make a homemade soup. It can be chicken salad, chicken enchiladas using leftover meat, or chicken to throw onto a bowl of mixed greens for a quick lunch.
Some people are intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole chicken and think of it like a turkey. Don’t let this bird scare you, my friends! It takes just a few minutes to prep the bird and get her in the oven. It cooks while you do other things, and when it is done, you’ll be so happy that you made it. I always buy organic whole chickens and they are readily available at most grocery stores these days. Wegmans seems to have the best prices overall around here. Whole Foods has good prices when they’re having a sale. Personally, I like to keep my chickens simple. The basic steps include: open the package carefully so you don’t drip on your floors or counters (no need to rinse the chicken), place the bird bottom side down in a large baking dish or roasting pan, remove any giblet bag that might be inside (smaller birds don’t seem to have them, but always check); then squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the chicken and be sure to rub the lemon, using the fleshy side, all over the legs and wings to make sure they get that nice flavor. Now stuff that half of a lemon inside the chicken. Sprinkle with herbs and spices such as dill, parsley, paprika, and black pepper. If you’re using fresh herbs, you can stuff a little of each one inside before placing your half of a lemon in there. Lastly, you’ll put about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the baking dish so that the chicken has lots of moisture around it while baking. Now you put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your chicken. Always use the middle rack in the oven, and you should baste it after cooking for an hour and again shortly before it is done. For basting, I simply use a spoon to scoop up some of the drippings in the bottom of the pan and drizzle it all over the chicken; this gets the skin nice and crispy, and eliminates the need for oils and butters.
I suggest using a meat thermometer to check the temperature and tell you when it is done. To keep your bird nice and juicy, let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving it up. This will allow time for the chicken to reabsorb all the juices and flavors, rather than leaking it all out into your baking dish. It is well worth the wait, trust me! This may sound involved, but I assure you, it only takes about 10 minutes to get things cooking and the rest is checking on the chicken and carving it up. In this image to the left, I made two roasters at once. You can see how golden the skin gets when they are done.
For this recipe, I added some roasted vegetables in the roasting dish. I included a picture of them before I placed the chicken on top so you can see their pretty colors and size. This is a nice way to change up the sides that can be served with a roast chicken and it makes it a ‘one pot meal’. Enjoy!