In my classic cooking repetoire, I think the key main course is a roast chicken. It’s looks impressive to serve to guests, but is also very homey and comforting. A few years ago I found a recipe called “engagement chicken” in a US women’s magazine. Apparently if you make your boyfriend a roast chicken, he will be unable to restrain himself from proposing because it conjures up images of a doting wife. Hmmm… Ok back from the 1950s. Boyfriend or not, if you’ve never made one before, it’s SUPER easy. It’s not even really ‘cooking’ – just rub the chicken with seasoning and put it in the oven!
I also love roasting a chicken because of all the options for the leftovers. In particular, I love making homemade chicken stock. And then using that stock in soup, or freezing it in smaller containers to use in cooking. Stay tuned, because in future posts we’ll learn all the ways that grandma might have used up every last bit of that chicken.
When selecting a chicken, I think it’s important to buy one that’s had a happy life. Free range, traditionally reared chicken tastes better – it tastes “more chickeny”. Yes, it is more expensive. But when you make a roast chicken, you’ll get several meals out of it, so the cost per meal is less. (As an aside, if you are curious to learn more about where our food comes from, and why the Standard American Diet is making us all unhealthy, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food“, it was game-changing for me.)
1 Chicken that lived a happy life (free range, organic chicken – or better yet, one from your local farm or farmers market!)
1 large lemon
1 tst dried herbs de provence (or assorted mixed herbs, dried or fresh)
3-4 TB olive oil
Meat thermometer (if you don’t have one, look here for approximate chicken roasting times)
Preheat oven to 375 F (200c). Cut lemon in chunks. Chop garlic (I chop mine quite coarsely, but you might do it finer if you don’t like big garlicky pieces!). Mix olive oil with dried herbs, salt, pepper and garlic in bowl.
Put chicken in roasting pan (I don’t even have a roasting rack, I just set it in a big pan). Stuff chicken cavity with lemon pieces, I always save 2 pieces to put on the legs. Rub entire chicken with herby oil mixture – use your hands! Set 2 leftover lemons in the leg crease.
Tent with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking until cooked through (I use a meat thermometer for this, and cook until the temperature reads 175-180F in the thickest part of the thigh). A couple of times, if you remember, spoon some of the pan juices over the top of the bird (“basting”) – this makes it really golden brown and delicious!
For a vintage dinner, serve with mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and homemade bread!