Food & Wine (April 2008)
Every cook seems to have a favorite roast chicken recipe. Ours happens to be the Barefoot Contessa's lemon and garlic version. There are two main things we love about her recipe: It's terribly easy (no flipping, very little prep) and the silky, meaty gravy you make from the pan juices is outstanding. It's without a doubt our favorite Sunday night meal.
Even though we love Contessa, Food & Wine's "Perfecting Roast Chicken" feature made us excited to try a new dish. There are four recipes included -- herb-and-lemon, moroccan, ginger-roasted, and curry-roasted -- and all sounded delicious.
Food & Wine's method for the herb-and-lemon version calls for creating an herb butter, which is spread beneath the skin and on the outside of the bird. The chicken is cooked on a rack, and flipped twice during the cooking. Once the chicken has cooked, its juices, along with the vegetables that have been roasting in the bottom of the pan, are used to create a "chunky jus" that is served with the chicken.
Roasted chicken is very forgiving, and this one was no different. One great aspect of this recipe is that the herb butter gives the chicken a beautiful, perfectly-browned skin.
However, we find a few faults with this recipe, especially when compared to others we've used:
First, flipping the bird (no, not that one) may have effects on the chicken that we don't recognize, but we couldn't find any benefit from the extra work in the final product.
Second, the recipe recommends using tongs for the flipping, but we found tongs to be of little use. Even though our bird was on the smaller side, it was too big and unwieldy for tongs.
Lastly, we deviated from the method suggested to make the jus. As with other recipes, once the chicken is removed, chicken broth is added to the vegetables that have been roasting in the pan. In this case, the vegetables are a large onion (cut into 8 wedges), a lemon (cut into 8 rounds), 5 garlic cloves and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme). Though the recipe did not call for this, we strained the jus before serving it. Who wants garlic husks and lemon seeds on their chicken?
That said, the results of this recipe are predictably delicious. The herb butter beneath the skin produced some surprise bursts of flavor and the strained jus was delicious. Next time, though, we'll go back to Contessa.
Have a favorite roast chicken recipe? Please share below!
Food & Wine (April 2008)
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
* 5 garlic cloves, 1 minced
* 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary plus 2 rosemary sprigs
* 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme plus 2 thyme sprigs
* 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* One 4-pound chicken, at room temperature
* 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
* 1 lemon, cut crosswise into 8 rounds
* 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Photo: Food & Wine
1. Preheat the oven to 425° and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a bowl, mix the butter with the minced garlic, minced herbs and the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
2. Pat the chicken dry. Rub half of the herb butter under the skin and the rest over the chicken; season with salt and pepper.
3. Set the chicken breast-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan. Scatter the onion, lemon, garlic cloves and herb sprigs and add 1/2 cup of water. Roast for 30 minutes, until the breast is firm and just beginning to brown in spots. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-down and roast for 20 minutes longer, until the skin is lightly browned.
4. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-side-up. Add another 1/2 cup of water. Roast for about 20 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 175° to 180°.
5. Tilt the chicken to drain the cavity juices into the pan; transfer the bird to a cutting board. Remove the rack from the pan and spoon off the fat. Set the pan over high heat. Add the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits. Press the lemon to release the juices. Carve the chicken and pass the chunky jus at the table.