The Tale of the Little Chicken That Could!

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!

Is there anything better than a roast chicken? Ummm, well, maybe these hasselback sweet potatoes! I got so excited that I made my balsamic reduction while the potatoes cooked, then reheated it and broke the sauce. It still tasted amazing, but please don't do that!

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.

The before and after chicken. He was such a helpful little chicken!

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40 thoughts on “The Tale of the Little Chicken That Could!

  1. Your chicken looks and sounds delicious, Betsy, and I thought I recognized those potatoes! This was a great post, from beginning to end. Loved the Cap’n Kangaroo video. Been 2 forevers since I’ve seen anything from his show. I can’t wait to see what’s cooking in the Chapter II. 🙂

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    • I couldn’t wait to see Captain Kangaroo each morning when I was a kid (4 forevers ago) and I loved the stories so much…Mr. Greenjeans and Rabbit, too. The Stone Soup story was one was one of my favorites, and now I know why…it involved food! 😉 Seriously, it’s such a sweet tale. Thanks for your kind words on my chicken and his story. I’ve made a few roast chickens, but this one was exceptionally moist and delicious…a chicken worth honoring!

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  2. This looks like an amazing recipe! I can’t wait to try it. On a side note, I wish I had half of your creativity and flair in my writing…any chance you want to write my dissertation for me? 😉

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  3. Betsy, you really are a great writer. I loved your story …that chicken definitely chose you! The story of stone soup is a wonderful story that I read with my daughter last year. I’ll have to give those hasselback potatoes a try — as I’m already a fan of Ina’s roast chicken recipe. It is easy to get into a side dish rut isn’t it? Looking forward to part two….

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  4. Oh Betsy, you do tell an entertaining story! I love to eat organic chicken too. I think the way you have cooked this chicken is wonderful and I just might have to ‘borrow’ the recipe. Love how you rubbed the seasoning under the skin. It certainly makes for a moist bird. xx

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    • Hi Charlie Louie, and thank you so much…I’m glad you were entertained…you tell such great stories yourself! I hope you WILL borrow this preparation, it makes a really tasty bird with great leftovers, which I shall share very soon. 🙂

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  5. Apologies if this is a duplicate – my computer decided to shut down without telling me! I love this story and I lovee what you did with the chicken – I too try to get as many meals out of one chicken as possible (and there are only two of us, so this makes sense). I remember the lovely Stone Soup story from an episode of Little House on the Prairie (sob, sob!) and look forward to whatever you´ll make next…risotto, croquettes, soup? And as for those harps and angels in the supermarket, they´re here too!

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    • No, no duplicates on this end…seems to be working fine, Tanya! I’m just thrilled that all these great story telling bloggers (yourself being one of them!) are enjoying my little chicken story. What fun! I’m going to make you wait on the next two dishes…but soup isn’t one of them, I will tell you that. Didn’t realize that the Stone Soup story was on Little House…I remember that show and it really was a sob, sob series! 🙂

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  6. The chicken had to be great with all the fresh herbs that you used to add additional flavor. I know that you really missed your calling in life…you should have been a writer of satire. I just love your blog because you always make me smile. You have a real gift and to top it off you are a very good cook as well.

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    • Karen, I’m blushing at your very kind words of praise for both my writing skills and my cooking. Thank you so very much! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that you enjoy my blog and that I can make you smile. I do enjoy your blog so much as well! ~Betsy

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  7. Hi Betsy – you know I’ve never been able to fully get on board with sweet potatoes. We don’t eat them that much in Europe, at least not in the parts I’m from. They always seem too sweet, like I want to dunk a load of lemon juice and salt on them or something, but every now and again they can be very enjoyable – I’m sure such a wonderful balsamic sauce would do a lot to persuade me, and the chicken looks wonderful – tender and herby!

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    • Hi Charles! I know what you mean about the sweet in the sweet potato. I used to not be a great fan of sweet potatoes either, and the only way I will order them out is if they’re fries. I like to make them savory by either making chips in the oven sprinkled with olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne, or mash them with roasted garlic and a tiny bit of butter and cream, or this balsamic approach which cuts the sweet, too. They were really good with the chicken…very complimentary flavors as it turned out!

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  8. As a first time reader of your blog i am delighted that I discovered you, thanks to Celi of kitchen garden. So many supermarkets, even Whole Foods, sell already roasted chickens. It takes some will power, when there’s one in front of your nose already prepared, to buy a fresh one and prepare it yourself. I always think of the peeling, cutting and slicing of vegetables, and the cleanups afterward. One friend judges a dinner’s success by how many pots there are to wash at the end of the meal. BUT your recipe sounds good enough to warrant the prep and wash. Thanks for the great ideas!

    Ronnie

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    • Hi Ronnie! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments. I agree and have been quite guilty of buying those pre-roasted chickens at Whole Foods. The last one I got was so dry and tough that it inspired me to do all of this…which really wasn’t so hard when it was all said and done, and the results were literally 1000 times better! I may never buy a pre-roasted chicken again…surely not if I can help it! I’m going to go check out your blog right now, and look forward to seeing what you’re up to. 🙂

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