A whole bird.
Roasted. Not unusual, not complex. Just simple, satisfying, primal.
Right now, a fat chicken is sitting in a glass pan on the dining room table, all glossy, salted and buttered up. Alone, uncooked and unadorned by herbs or vegetables, it’s strangely erotic, this naked bird, plucked of all its feathers and primed for culinary enjoyment. The chicken is just screaming to be paired with a big handful of winter vegetables and placed in a hot oven, where its skin will morph into a crispy, golden brown crust and its meat can plumpen and shine with the help of a little butter, olive oil and garden herbs.
Today I will bring butternut squash and brussels sprouts together, with a good amount of onion, to roast in the juices of the chicken. I will heat up a cast iron skillet and make cornbread to use as a sopping device for the bird jus.
I am making this meal for a working family with 2 small children – a 3 year old and a 5 month old. I’m hoping the aromas wafting through their kitchen and the tastes of this modest meal can provide them sustenance, warmth and comfort after a long Monday. I am hoping that this one yard bird, roasted to tender, savory perfection, will somehow bring a little bit of well-deserved, edible cheer to the whole family.
That’s what so attractive about that naked bird perched in a glass pan on the table beside me. It has the power to change the day of a human being.
Roasted whole chicken
1 nice sized chicken (Daniel from Darby Farms raises beautiful chickens, if you’re around these Atlanta parts)
3 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, even edible lavender work well. Today I used just a bunch of rosemary).
2-3 tbs of olive oil or melted butter
Salt + pepper
Preheat your oven to 425. Take the giblets out of the chicken. Divide your herb bouquet: chop about 1/4 cup of herbs and leave the rest of the bouquet whole. Rinse the bird off and pat it dry – the dry skin will crisp up much nicer than skin with a lot of water still on it. Rub the oil or butter all over and under the skin of the bird, and allow it to sit out in order to reach room temp. (A cold bird will not cook as well or as evenly). If you want to make sure your chicken breast ends up extra juicy, truss up your bird: tie its legs and wings back with kitchen twine to promote even cooking. Cut the lemon in half and the onion in fourths. Stuff the cavity of the bird with these, and a bunch of herbs (you can’t have too many fresh herbs in the chicken). Crush the cloves of garlic and rub it all over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and the chopped herbs. Cook the chicken about an hour. You will know it’s done when the juices run clear and the leg meat and skin has separated away from the bone. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 15 minutes – this allows the juice to settle. Baste the bird with the remaining juice. Carve and serve with your favorite vegetables and sopping device.