Oven Roasted Chicken

This is a fairly flexible recipe that you can change to suit your own tastes. As long as you use the basic techniques, you should be left with a mouth watering chicken with a thin crispy skin and tender juicy meat. Special props to Todd who showed me how to roast my first chicken. The picture is a bit misleading. It is not a tiny little game hen, it is a large chicken on a large platter full of tasty tasty meaty goodness.

Ingredients:
-1x 4-6 pound chicken
-1 whole head of garlic
-2 to 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
-1.5 to 2 tsp dried thyme
-5 leaves fresh sage ( or 1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage)
-3 or 4 sprigs of italian parsley (non curly)
-1/2 of a lemon
-lots of salt and pepper
-olive oil

1) take out the neck, giblets, liver, heart, etc and either throw away or set aside for other future cooking projects
2) wash the chicken under cool water thuroughly inside and out. Let it drip dry. The next step is not 100% necessary but I think it leads to a more flavorful and moist chicken. Using fine grain cheap salt give the chicken a healthy dusting inside and out. Don’t worry, be liberal with it, you won’t end up eating it as we’ll rinse it off later. What we’re trying to achieve is basically doing a cheater brine. Set the chicken in a clean sink or back into the fridge for at least 1/2 and hour or up to an hour and a half.
3)Preheat a toaster oven or regular oven to 350. Take a small piece of foil and place the whole head of garlic in the center. Give it a little olive oil to coat and then wrap the head securely in the foil with the cut pieces up so it won’t drip. Put the garlic in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until soft. If you used enough oil, it shouldn’t get overly browned or dried. Once it has cooked and cooled, squeese the garlic (which should now be pastelike) into a small mixing bowl. Chop up the rosemary and sage and add it to the garlic. Add the thyme and a good healthy dose of salt and pepper. This is going to be your rub, so you want it salty. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, stir it in and set aside.
4)If you haven’t already, heat your regular oven up to between 350 and 375. Rinse the chicken inside and out of all the salt. Using a few paper towels, pat it dry and set it on a dry board or large platter. Using your fingers, gently pry the skin off of the breast without puncturing anything. You’ll want to work from the non neck end. Get your fingers as far down the breast, under the skin, as you can and also try to work your way over towards the legs. Take about 3/4 of the garlic paste mixture and work it under the skin of the breast. Smoosh it around and try and get it to cover as much area as you can. Take the rest of the past and smear the inside of the chicken cavity.
5)Drizzle some olive oil over the outside of the chicken. You don’t need much, but giving it a bit of an oil rub will help it brown more evenly. Dust the outside of the oiled skin with fresh ground pepper and salt. Make sure you do both sides of the chicken. Place the parsley sprigs and the 1/2 lemon inside the chicken cavity. Don’t over stuff it with things at that will increase the cooking time and probably dry out the breast. Place the chicken on a wire rack breast side up inside of a roasting pan. Take a small piece of butcher twine and tie the legs together. Tuck the wing tips back behind the shoulder blades so that they stay close to the body and don’t over cook. Put it all inside the oven on the middle rack. Check the chicken after about 40 minutes. Flip the chicken when the skin over the breast becomes thin and turns golden. Check the back after 30-40 minutes. You’ll know the chicken is done when the meat starts pulling back from the drumstick end joint and the hip joints become very soft and threaten to fall apart. I usually like to do one last cook, breast side up, at a higher temperature (400 degrees) if the skin hasn’t already become overdone. This ensures that the skin over the breast is nice and crispy when I serve it up. Set the chicken aside and let it rest for 8-12 minutes.

You can vary this recipe with different spices. You can also throw hunks of roast veg (carrots, onions, celery, etc) under the chicken on its rack. Give them a toss with some chopped herbs (the same ones used on the chicken) and some salt and pepper. Give it just a little olive oil so it doesn’t burn before the chicken starts rendering out its fat.

Gravy is easy peasy. Take all the chicken drippings and let them cool just a bit in the pan and then pour them into a heavy duty zip lock bag. Place the whole thing in a large bowl for a few seconds (with the zipper side at the top) and grab a pair of kitchen scissors. When you see that the oils have separated to the top and the bottom has all the tasty juices, give a bottom corner a small snip (you need to do this when the juices have cooled enough so they won’t burn you) hold it over a cup or bowl to catch the juice, and pinch the hole off right when the oil starts to pour out. Put the fat aside for another cooking recipe or throw it out once cooled and solidified.

You can use a few spoonfulls of the chicken fat (or olive oil) in a pan over medium heat. Add a few spoons of flour to the pan and stir with a whisk until it just starts to brown. You are making a roux which will give your gravy more body. When the roux starts browning, start adding the chicken juices little by little whisking during the whole process. After you’ve added all the juices, give it a taste. If it is too strong you can add some water. Use salt and pepper if needed.

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