perfect roast chicken

by Patricia on May 15, 2009 · 6 comments

When I am traveling, I usually want to get to my destination as quickly as possible.  If it isn’t too expensive, I opt for the nonstop flight.  If I’m driving, I limit my stops to the necessities.  I just want to get there.  But every now and then, I chill out enough to enjoy the journey.  Like when I moved to California.  I drove.  All by my lonesome all the way from Savannah to San Francisco.  And it was one of the best trips I’ve taken.  I stopped off for beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.  Took a detour through Roswell and Carlsbad, New Mexico. And took my time driving up the coast of California.

Roswell was not as interesting as I had hoped and it smelled like horse manure.  I’m not an UFO freak or anything, but I was still hoping to find something more interesting than the random creepy guy who asked me for a ride home… and the smell.  I like horses. And if I’m around a horse, I don’t mind the smell so much. But when you get out of your car in a new place and don’t see horses, and your in the middle of town, you might find it kind of odd to smell horse manure.  Or at least I did.  (If you happen to be from Roswell or a really big fan, I don’t mean any disrespect.  I’m sure it’s a lovely place).  By the way, I think everyone should go to Carlsbad Caverns at least once.  It was beautiful and amazing… and a great place to think.  I did a lot of thinking on that trip.  But that’s a story for another day.

This is a picture of rosemary.  It smells a lot better than horse manure.  


Today I thought I’d talk a little about a journey.  Not my journey to California, but my journey to chicken salad.  I had a craving the other day for chicken salad.  And chicken soup.  So instead of going the easy route and buying a rotisserie chicken or cooking up some chicken breasts for instant gratification, I decided to enjoy the journey.  I decided to roast a chicken. 

chicken (raw)

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of roast chicken.  Or turkey.  I mean, I “like” them.  And I’ll eat them.  But I usually prefer the things that go with the roast chicken more than the chicken itself.  Things like a beautiful salad or roasted potatoes or hunks of crusty bread or glazed carrots…  But I do like the idea of roast chicken.  And I love the possibilities that it brings: chicken salad, soup or stock, chicken burritos, chicken fried rice, etc.  And because of the idea and the possibilities, I love to roast chicken.

garlic, lemon, rosemary

I first learned to roast a chicken from this recipe. But now I just work from memory.  It’s an easy formula and it’s always good.  In a nutshell, this is it: take a chicken, stuff it with 1 lemon cut into halves or quarters, and 1 head of garlic cut horizontally.  Salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for about 1 hour 15 minutes.  And víola, perfect roast chicken.  I’ve been making this chicken or variations of it for at least ten years now and each time it gets raves.  I’m not trying to be uppity or brag.  I mean,it isn’t really that special.  If you do a search for roast chicken, there are many recipes and most boil down to a very similar formula.  So I am not the keeper of some great secret.  But it’s a formula and it works.  That’s what I know.

rosemary and rocks

I watched a Barefoot Contessa episode recently where she added thyme to her roast chicken, so this time I decided to use a little rosemary in mine.  I went out on the deck to pick some… that plastic bin next to the rosemary is full of dirt and rocks that Dan’s boys collected. Apparently, boys like dirt… and sometimes it seems, they are made of dirt.  But even a boy made of dirt will love this chicken.

roasted chicken

Ta-da.  This brings us to the first stop of our journey.  It is lovely but not the final destination.  We’ll continue the journey (to chicken salad!) next time… 

Perfect Roast Chicken (adapted from M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger)

4-5 lb chicken, preferably all-natural or free range
1 lemon
1 head garlic
rosemary (about 4 sprigs about 4 inches each)
salt (I use Kosher)
fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Remove all the parts from the inside of the chicken.

3. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry.

4. Liberally salt and pepper inside and outside of the chicken.  Place chicken breast side up in a roasting pan.

5. Cut the lemon into quarters. Cut the garlic in half horizontally.  Stuff both of these and the rosemary into the chicken.

6. Tuck the wings under the body of the chicken.  And if you have it, tie up the legs with kitchen string.  (I don’t have kitchen string usually so I don’t usually tie up the legs, but in theory it helps the chicken cook more evenly.  I haven’t had a problem though, so it’s up to you).

7.  Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches about 165.  OR the juices run clear (not pink) when you pierce between the thigh and leg.

8. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.  Then dig in!


– Pour about 1/4 cup melted butter over the breasts before putting it into the oven.  This keeps the skin moist.  If you like it a little crisper, skip the butter (I usually do).

– Also, you could add to the roasting pan a couple of lemons cut into wedges and another head of garlic cut in half horizontally .  I did this this last time and I made a sauce from the pan drippings which was very tart and lemony.

– To make a sauce or gravy: remove the chicken from the pan.  I put the roasting pan directly on the stove and turn the burner on medium.  Add about 1/4 cup of white wine and “deglaze” the pan (aka scrape the brown stuff off the bottom and let it become part of the liquid.  hey, it’s all flavor).  Add about 1-2 tablespoons of flour to the pan and whisk around until smooth. And then about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of chicken broth.  Let simmer until it gets a little glossy.  This is an imprecise formula and sometimes I get it thicker like gravy and other times it’s a thinner sauce.  Play with the flour and liquid amounts to get it to the consistency you like.  Taste it before you add any salt or other seasonings…


1 Kent Bui August 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Awesome pics, and loving the site. Something else that works great, if you’re not concerned with calories… run your fingers under the skin over the chicken breast from both ends and separate it from the flesh. Slice some thin sheets of butter and slide it under the skin. This will, in effect, baste the meat with butter while it’s cooking, plus help the skin to render the fat and you’ll wind up with both juicy chicken and crisp skin.

2 Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. May 19, 2009 at 5:49 am

I’ve never seen a photo of raw chicken that looks so beautiful before :) great job.

3 The Duo Dishes May 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Great pictures! This chicken’s going to make awesome chicken salad.

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