Roast chicken: finger-lickin'
|By Elan Head
June 10, 2006
years as a freelance writer, I recently
started work as a helicopter flight
instructor, what can only be described
as a “real job.”
I have a boss. I wake up early and come
home, exhausted, late.
Man, how do the rest of you stand it?
Meantime, my husband’s new job gives him
the flexibility to work from home, so
he’s been picking up some of the
domestic slack. And one thing he’s been
making for us on a regular basis is
With temperatures picking up, “roast”
anything doesn’t necessarily sound
Still, I count roast chicken as a great
summer dish for several reasons: it’s
relatively easy to make, it pairs
perfectly with light wines and summer
vegetables, and leftovers are good cold.
And if cranking up the A.C. while you
cook adds a buck or two to your electric
bill, well, you’ve saved gas by not
You may have heard before that the
secret to great roast chicken is great
chicken. It’s true.
A plump, freshly butchered bird is so
vastly better than the standard
supermarket chicken that they might
plausibly be different species.
Still, as I discovered a few years ago,
butchering chickens is a big, bloody,
To my mind, the next best thing is the
organic free-range chicken sold at Whole
At two to three dollars per pound, it’s
not cheap — but neither does it require
Whatever breed or brand you’re working
with, start by giving your bird a good
rinse, inside and out. Then pat it dry
with paper towels.
(For the crispiest skin, complete this
step ahead of time; return the chicken
to the refrigerator and let it sit,
Now for the seasoning. I think the best
way to season roast chicken is with a
paste rubbed under the skin, and I
usually let inspiration guide me.
Sometimes my seasoning paste is as
simple as pressed garlic mixed with
olive oil, butter and salt. Sometimes I
add ground cumin, dried chile or pounded
fresh herbs — the possibilities are
To work this mixture under the skin,
start by prying up the skin around the
You’ll find that it’s not too difficult
to slide your fingers along the breast
meat, and with a little patience you can
pry the skin away from the thighs and
slide your fingers along the legs, too.
Work the seasoning mixture evenly into
the breast and thigh meat, then wipe any
excess on the outside of the bird.
For an extra-juicy chicken, poke a lemon
all over with a fork and insert it into
the breast cavity. Wash your hands!
Although high roasting temperatures
yield crispy skin, they also demand
close monitoring. I like to roast
chicken at the moderate temperature of
375 degrees — which turns roasting into
a more or less casual affair.
Start the bird breast-down in a roasting
pan (use a roasting rack if you have
one), then flip it breast-up about 40
minutes into the cooking time.
A five-pound chicken will take about 75
minutes to cook through, but start
checking its temperature around the
60-minute mark. The chicken is done when
a thermometer inserted in the thigh
reads 165 degrees, and juices from the
thigh run clear.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let
it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. To carve,
use a large knife to slice through the
wing joints and remove the wings. Then
slice through the thigh joints and
remove the legs.
Carve each leg into a thigh and a
drumstick by cutting through the joint
that connects them.
Cleave the breast in half down the
middle, then detach each half from the
carcass. If the breasts are large, slice
them in half horizontally, yielding four
pieces of breast meat.
Voila! Roast chicken — the perfect
reward for a hard day’s work.
Now, Honey, would you mind doing the