You see, preparing a roast chicken is a critical component to any chef's repertoire. It is a hearty and nutritious meal that is a mainstay for serving both family and friends. I successfully prepared my first roast chicken when I was 22 and living on my own in New York. I'll never forget carefully selecting my first roaster, weighing in at roughly three pounds, from the nearby specialty food shop. When I brought it home I placed it in my tiny sink and proceeded to painstakingly follow the The Joy of Cooking recipe for basic roast chicken. It must have taken me almost an hour to prepare this simple dish. I carefully seasoned, stuffed and trussed the bird exactly as directed. When it was finally ready I put it in the oven and checked it, religiously, until the juices ran clear and the timer indicated the 25 minutes per pound ratio was complete. The dish was a success by all standards, it was juicy, tender and perfectly chickeny tasting. Unfortunately, I ended up tossing most of the poor thing. The meal was a dry run for an upcoming dinner date and I had mearly been testing the recipe to make sure it was good enough to serve to another human being.
Of course, it is almost ten years later now and things are different. These days I prepare a roast chicken monthly and barely consult recipes for instructions. Now that I have the basics down I have learned that roasting a chicken is, in fact, pretty hard to screw up. I tossed my trussing twine several apartment moves ago, never to truss again, and have experimented with nearly every kind of stuffing and seasoning that has ever been suggested. I have also learned that a roast chicken is an excellent strategy for Sunday dinner. Typically, I season and prepare the bird on Sunday during naptime and put it in the oven so that it will be complete by 6pm. After letting the meat rest I prepare my daughter one of her favorite meals, shredding some of the tender breast meat into small bits and stirring it into soft rice. Then my husband and I carve up the body, each taking our favorite parts, and put the remaining meat in the fridge for dinner on Monday and Tuesday. And, last by not least, I place the carcass in a pot to make fresh chicken stock.
Recently I prepared a roast chicken with the following recipe, adapted slightly to suit my tastes. I loved the idea of adding a splash of citrus to the chicken, it seemed a like a great way to sweeten the meat and make it extra juicy. The recipe did not disappoint, in fact, I've made it three times this winter. With this preparation the meat becomes very moist and tender, so much so that I barely need a knife to cut it. We love the sweet citrus flavor and usually reserve some of the pan sauce to drizzle over the chicken when it is all carved up. Like all good Sunday dinners this is worth the effort, yielding more than enough food for three nights of meals. I have served it to dinner guests, as well. When I served it to our friend Mimi, who eats just about everything, she immediately picked out the sweet fruity taste declaring "there is orange in this, isn't there. I love it." I was impressed. That was endorsement enough for me, I will definitely be serving it again. And, by the way, if you have never actually roasted a chicken I highly recommend you give it a try, you will be surprised at how easy it is. Then, once you have perfected it, get started on learning that stick shift.
Naptime Herb Citrus Roasted Chicken - adapted slightly from Giada de Laurentiis
1/2 c. olive oil
3 shallots, minced
3 T. orange zest
3 T. lemon zest
1 lemon, quartered
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. fresh rosemary
2 t. Kosher salt
2 t. black pepper
2 c. chicken stock
2 T. fresh orange juice
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine first eight ingredients in a glass bowl and set aside.
3. Remove gizzards from chicken, rinse the chicken under the faucet and pat dry.
4. Rub zest mixture over the skin, under the skin and in the cavity of the chicken.
5. Stuff quartered lemon inside cavity of chicken.
6. Place seasoned chicken in a high 9x13 baking pan. Pour chicken stock, orange juice and lemon juice, and cranberries around the chicken.
7. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes per pound. Check on the chicken from time to time and take it out once the juices run clear with the thigh is pricked.
8. Remove chicken from the oven and tent for 10 minutes to let the meat rest and absorb the liquid.
9. Carve and serve.
Naptime Recipe Props: This recipe is a no-fail way to roast chicken. The juices make the chicken incredibly moist and sweet. You can play with the herbs as you see fit, almost anything can be added or subtracted to your liking.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing a roast chicken takes slightly longer than a typical weekday dish, but it is worth the time. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare the ingredients and the bird for roasting. Then estimate about 20-25 minutes per pound in the oven, usually about one and a half hours for a four pound bird. You could even roast it in the morning if you want to, then serve it cold for dinner.
Naptime Reviews: This recipe has been a winner all around. The citrus flavors give the chicken an unexpected twist, which may be too sweet for some, but was a big hit with my crowd.