Cook's Illustrated (September & October 2008)
Almost every month, at least one of our magazines contains such a recipe, but we rarely make them.
We've previously professed our love for the Barefoot Contessa's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken. We've probably returned to this recipe more than any other -- a well-stained and heavily creased print-out of it is tucked between two cookbooks in our kitchen. It's our favorite way to end a weekend, the perfect Sunday night meal.
The recipe for Cook's, titled "Improving Herbed Roast Chicken," caught our attention, because although we make roast chicken all the time, we rarely make it absolutely slathered in herbs, as Cook's does in this recipe.
Can it outdo Contessa?
The recipe's approach is simple. Butterfly and flatten a whole chicken. Make shallow incisions on the legs and thighs. Create an herb butter with tarragon, thyme, scallions, garlic and salt. Place a portion of herb butter beneath the skin on the breast. Brown chicken skin-side down on the stove top; transfer to oven, and roast. Flip and slather with herb butter. Create a sauce using the pan juices and reserved herb butter.
Easy, right? Though this calls for more steps than our favorite go-to recipe, we liked the approach to cooking the chicken both on the stove top and in the oven. This calls for more attentiveness to the chicken -- with Contessa's, you can pretty much "set it and FORGET IT!" Here, you need to be able to give more active cooking time.
But the result is amazingly delicious.
The three applications of herbs (beneath the skin, on the skin, and in the sauce) give the chicken a robust flavor -- so much so, in fact, that it partially drowns out the taste of the chicken. It's an herbstravaganza.
In all honesty, we'll probably continue using Contessa's recipe for our Sunday night ritual. But if we ever tire of it, this is an excellent back-up recipe.
How do you like your roast chicken? Any favorite recipes?
Serves 3 to 4.
1 whole chicken (about 5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, giblets discarded (see note)
1/2 cup table salt plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves , lightly packed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (see note)
6 medium scallions , green parts sliced thin (about 2/3 cup), whites reserved for another use
1 medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
Ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 - 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Following illustrations below, butterfly chicken and flatten breastbone. Tuck wings behind back. Using sharp knife, lightly score skin of thighs and legs, making 2 shallow cuts on each part about 1/8 inch into meat and about 3/4 inch apart. Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge chicken in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place tarragon, thyme, scallions, garlic, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on cutting board; mince to fine paste. Transfer herb paste to medium bowl and add butter. Using fork or stiff rubber spatula, mix until combined. Transfer 2 tablespoons herb butter to small bowl and refrigerate; set aside remainder at room temperature.
3. Remove chicken from brine and rinse under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels. Following illustrations below and using fingers, carefully separate skin from each side of breast to form pocket. Place 1 tablespoon softened herb butterin each pocket. Using spoon or fingers, spread butter over breast meat. Season skin with pepper.
4. Heat oil in ovensafe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place chicken skin-side down in skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast chicken 25 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken so skin-side is facing up. Using spoon or spatula, evenly coat chicken skin with remaining softened herb butter and return to oven. Roast chicken until skin is golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to carving board and let rest, uncovered, 20 minutes.
5. FOR THE SAUCE: While chicken rests, pour pan juices into fat separator; allow liquid to settle 5 minutes. Pour juices into 2-cup measuring cup and add enough chicken broth to measure 1 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons fat from fat separator to skillet and place over medium heat. When fat is shimmering, add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 60 seconds. Add broth and bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Simmer rapidly until reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices from carving board; return to simmer and cook 30 seconds. Remove panfrom heat, whisk in cold herb butter and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Carve chicken and serve, passing sauce separately.