As a part of my current kick to save money by removing a step or two of the middle man process in my cooking (I’ve been having a great time cooking dried instead of canned beans, for instance), I’ve started roasting whole chickens instead of purchasing already butchered chicken pieces.
A whole chicken is great for a variety of reasons: You get all the various chicken pieces, negating any white versus dark meat supermarket fights, you’re left with the fantastic chicken carcass that you can freeze to make chicken stock later, and you get all that fabulous chicken skin.
What you’ll need:
- Whole chicken, giblets removed, patted dry with a paper towel
- Half a stick of butter, room temperature.
- 2T Herbes de Provence (or similar aromatic herb blend)
- 1t Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh herbs and other aromatics for stuffing (I use onion, garlic, lemon, fresh rosemary and/or thyme)
- Meat thermometer
- Medium sized red potatoes (optional)
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Lightly grease a glass or enamel roasting pan.
- Using a fork, combine the butter, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, salt and pepper (don’t be shy), in a small bowl to make a compound butter.
- Take the chicken and liberally rub the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the chicken’s cavity with your fresh herbs and aromatics, enough so it is tightly filled.
- With butcher’s twine or silicone baking ties, tie back the chicken’s legs to close the cavity.
- Place the chicken in the roasting pan and thoroughly coat its exterior with the compound butter.
- Place the red potatoes around the chicken (optional). Prick the potatoes once or twice with a fork and lightly coat in olive oil or any leftover compound butter.
- Roast uncovered for 70-90 minutes, depending on the size. Your chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest spots in the thigh and breast both read 170 degrees.
- Check the chicken after 30 minutes. If the skin is getting too brown, carefully cover the chicken with aluminum foil. Use this time to rotate the potatoes so they get covered in the pan drippings.
And that’s it! As long as you have the time, it’s a very easy one-pan meal that will provide a couple of people 2-3 days worth of meals, even more if you use the carcass to make a stock. Speaking of….
After the chicken has rested for 10-15 minutes, carefully turn it over on its back on a cutting board. Carve off the breasts, keeping the knife as close to the bone as possible. Turn the chicken back over and find the joints at the thighs and the wings. Detach the pieces from the carcass with a boning knife. Carve off any remaining large pieces of meat and, once the carcass is completely cooled, place in a plastic freezer bag and save for later use. When you do want to make a stock, put the carcass in a pot and cover with cold water. Add fresh onions, celery, carrots, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for at least four hours, periodically skimming off the foam that will form at the surface. Taste the stock every hour or so and adjust seasoning as needed. When finished, remove the bones and strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Use immediately or, after its cooled completely, carefully transfer to heavy duty freezer bags to freeze for later use.
Oh, you want to make a pan gravy too? Sure.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a thick bottomed sauce pan. Dice the giblets (if available) and brown in the bottom of the pan. Slowly add a tablespoon of flour as you stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the flour browns into a light roux. Add the juice from the roasting pan along with the aromatics removed from the chicken cavity (except any fruit). Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the sauce thickens slightly (10-15 minutes). Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper if needed. If the gravy is too salty, dilute with water or low sodium chicken stock and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove any large pieces from the gravy and then strain into a bowl.