Once upon a time, there was a sale on whole organic chickens at Whole Foods. These were beautiful little chickens, certified organic stage 3, and individually wrapped…and it was a GOOD sale.
The day had dawned bright and sunny, the weekend was upon us, and the home cook went to the market on her lunch hour to purchase some milk and fruit to round out her grocery supply. She had no need of animal proteins on this beautiful, crisp day, being well endowed with veggies from her local CSA box.
She briskly strolled her cart down the aisles…easily ignoring the pitfalls of the cheese department and the bakery(!). And then suddenly, just as she rounded the paper goods aisle, harps started playing and angels started singing…it was Friday you see, the big one day sale! And there they were, all those little chickens…lined up side by side in the refridgerator case, waiting patiently to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers.
They called to her, beckoning with their siren song, all standing tall and proud in their shiny plastic wrappers. “A roast chicken would be good,” she thought…”when was the last time I had, or even made one of those?” And low and behold, a chicken came unto her, waving its little chicken drumsticks and clucking ideas for cooking preparations as it hopped into her shopping cart. “Oh, well, maybe I’ll get just one,” she thought, checking the expiration date.
And thus it began. The tale of the little chicken that could, because he said he would… supply not one, but at least three different meals!
On the way home from the market and with the story of Stone Soup coming to mind, the home cook ventured to ask the little chicken a bit skeptically: “How can I possibly make three meals out of one little 3 1/2 lb. chicken?” “Well,” said the chicken poking up out of the grocery bag and still waving a drumstick enthusiastically, “let me show you how…(and fortunately there are only two of you to eat me!) I’ll take you on a little culinary journey from the elegant to the sublime, and back again. Just hang with me for a while and see what I can teach you.” And so the home cook listened to the whispers of the little chicken, and later that weekend, started her adventure by roasting him.
As you may now have guessed, this delicious tale has three chapters. Here below lies the recipe for chapter one. Stay tuned for more next time in part two of: The Tale of the Little Chicken that Could!
Very Important Footnotes:
1. I served this chicken with Greg and Katherine’s absolutely drool-worthy Hasselback Sweet Potatoes which you can see here on the fabulous Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide blog. All I can say is that if you don’t try these for yourself, you’ve really missed something out-of-this-world good. This will become a regular side in our house and I may never fix a sweet potato without this easy balsamic reduction again! Seriously.
2. Unfamiliar with the charming folk tale of Stone Soup? (And no, soup isn’t a chapter in my story.) You can see and hear the tale of Stone Soup below in it’s entirety as it was read on the Captain Kangaroo Show so many years ago. Enjoy.
The inspiration for this version of a roasted chicken came from seasonings that Ina Garten uses for her roasted turkey breast, and from the great Julia Child. How can you go wrong?
Herb Roasted Chicken
(The bit of wine in the bottom of the pan makes this a moist and flavorful chicken with some pan juices. It’s REALLY good!)
1 – 3 1/2 to 4 lb. whole nice chicken, preferably organic and I envy you if home raised
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus 1 sprig
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus two sprigs
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, plus a pinch
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, save both the lemon halves to stuff into the cavity of the bird
1/2 cup dry white or rose wine
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Make a paste in a small bowl by combining the chopped herbs, garlic, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, olive oil and the lemon juice. Set aside.
Gently wash your chicken (removing anything inside the cavity) inside and out with warm water. Remove any extra fat around the neck of the bird. With a sharp knife, carefully remove the wing nubbins where they join the elbow of the wing. Starting at the open end of the breast, gently lift the skin off the meat, trying to keep in in one piece and lifting just enough to get your fingertips all the way to the front of the breast on both sides. Take 3/4 of the herb paste and smear it well all over the breast meat under the skin. Carefully place the skin back over the breasts. Rub the remaining paste all over the chicken, then season it outside and inside the cavity with a bit of salt and pepper. Slice your remaining lemon into thick slices and place it inside the cavity of the chicken, along with the rosemary and thyme sprigs. Take some kitchen string and tie the two drumstick legs together. Place the chicken breast side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, and tuck the wings up underneath the chicken. Pour the wine into the bottom of the pan.
Place the chicken into the oven and roast at 425 for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and roast for about 1 hour, checking periodically and covering the breast with aluminum foil if it starts to get too brown. After a total cooking time of 1 hour 15 minutes, check the chicken to see if it’s done. It’s done when you prick the breasts with the tines of a carving fork and press down, and the juices run clear with no sign of pink, and the thighs underneath have clear juices when pricked and pressed as well, and the legs will wobble freely when jiggled. When in doubt, roast it another 15 minutes or so and check again…a bigger bird may require more time. When it’s done, remove the pan and bird from the oven, cover lightly with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve.
We used most of the breast meat for our dinner, then saved the rest of the meat, the carcass and the accumulated pan juices for our next chapter! We’ll waste nothing when it’s all said and done.