Recipe: Perfect Roast Chicken
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.
I don’t want chocolate for Valentines Day. There’s no need for champagne, and although roses are nice, they wouldn’t be my first choice. We have no sitter, no dinner reservations, and honestly I’ve spent enough February 14ths waitressing in fancy restaurants to last me a lifetime.
If you really love me, roast me a chicken. A little butter, some lemon and garlic, maybe even a few herbs if you really want to go all out. Roast a few potatoes to soak up the juice from the chicken, and then we can eat a little salad afterwards to cleanse the palate, European style.
While the chicken is roasting the house will smell of warmth and garlic, and the counters will be clean and the dishes from the day will be done and tucked into the dishwasher already. I can’t think of anything more romantic.
We’ll feed the kids earlier and for once they’ll be okay with that, because they’re old enough now to know that it’s in their best interest to give us a little time on our own. They like having parents who love each other.
You can drink beer and I’ll drink bourbon, because that’s what we like and it’s okay that we like different things. I’ll set the table with nice napkins, and I’ll use the sweet-smelling beeswax candles instead of the cheap Ikea ones. And then the chicken will be ready.
It will pop and sizzle in its pan even as you take it out of the oven. And because it’s late and we’re hungry, the chicken will have its rest right there on the table for a few minutes. We’ll skip the carving and gravy altogether, and we’ll just cut what we like right off the chicken and spoon the juices from the pan over it all as we go. I’ll have a breast, and you’ll have a thigh. I can’t think of anything more romantic.
And then we’ll eat and talk about ordinary things. We’ll eat until we’re full and then there will be leftovers for chicken salad tomorrow, which is our older daughter’s favorite lunch in the world. I’ll put the carcass in the freezer for stock. And then together, we’ll do the dishes. I can’t think of anything more romantic.
Perfect Roast Chicken
1 3½—4 lb chicken
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons softened butter
½ a lemon
Optional: 1 small head of garlic, fresh rosemary or thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Do not rinse your chicken, but dry it well with a paper towel. Rub the salt over the inside and outside of chicken. Rub the butter (patiently and messily) over the entire surface of the chicken. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken, and put the spent rind in the cavity. If you’re using garlic, cut the head in half through its equator and put both halves in the cavity of the chicken. Add herbs to the cavity as well if you like.
2. Roast until the skin is crispy, the leg wiggles loosely in its joint, and the juices run clear when you slice into the thickest part of the thigh. This will take between 60 and 85 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven, transfer to a board, and put the roasting pan over a burner on medium heat. Add a little wine, vermouth, stock, or even water to the pan and bring it all up to a boil, scraping the brown bits into the sauce. Taste, and adjust salt if needed.
3. Carve the chicken as it pleases you, and serve with the sauce.