I haven’t made a roast chicken in probably two years (although this is probably on the top of my favorite centerpieces for any special dinners). Whether it’s my birthday, anniversary, or a simple Thanksgiving spent with a small group of friends, I always think of a perfect roast chicken as my dinner choice: crispy skin on the outside and juicy chicken oozing out with aromatic herbs. Another beauty of this dish is that you can also throw in some vegetables and potatoes under the roasting rack, and you’d get a one-stop meal.
A couple of weekends ago, the stars really lined up for me: I had found a couple of gorgeous organic chickens at the grocery store, and then when I got home, I had a toddler that went down for a long leisurely nap. I quickly decided that I wanted to roast the chicken for our Sunday supper. The only herb that I had at home was sage, so I decided to use it along with garlic. Earlier this summer, I bought a sage plant, and while I think it is on its last dying breaths, some of the branches are still standing with its gorgeous leaves, so I thought that I should really take advantages of those leaves before they died. Sage makes a great pairing for chicken, and roasting this at a high temperature at first really crisps up the skin. Lowering the temperature at the second half of the cooking time really kept it from drying out. The only thing that I would have done differently would be to use regular carrots rather than baby carrots so they wouldn’t have fallen through the roasting rack where the chicken sits. But other than that, it was perfect.
1 4-lb. chicken
22 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp. olive oil
Gound black pepper, to taste
8 sprigs parsley
2 small onions, quartered
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces
Fleur de sel
Heat oven to 475°. Rinse chicken under cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Peel lemon, avoiding white pith. Finely chop lemon peel, sage, and garlic together; place in a bowl. Add butter and 1 tsp. salt. Stir to combine. Quarter the peeled lemon; set aside.
Using your fingers and a small, sharp knife, loosen skin of chicken from breasts and thighs. Slip butter mixture between skin and flesh, spreading it evenly. Rub skin with oil; season skin and cavity with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff with quartered lemon, parsley, and 1 quartered onion. Tie legs together with kitchen twine, if you like.
Put remaining quartered onion and carrots into center of roasting pan and place chicken on top of them. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 400˚.
Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (without touching bone) reads 165°, about 1 hour more. Transfer chicken to a platter; sprinkle with fleur de sel; let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Yield: 4 servings
Slightly adapted from Saveur