October 26, 2010

Comfort Food: Eliz's Roast Chicken

Sure there’s fancy. I have stacks of old Gourmet magazines in the basement, filled with recipes two pages long, multi-day complex affairs that somehow never quite live up to all their promise. It used to be that I’d seek out the especially long ones, seeing a virtue in surviving a marathon of cooking, struggling to get everything to the table at once and hot.

And while those moments of total immersion in a new recipe, technique or process still beckon (tomato sauce anyone?), there’s something deeply satisfying about simple. A chicken. A lemon. Some fresh herbs. Garlic. Olive oil.

Roast chicken really is a most magical dish.

Eliz’s Roast Chicken
serves two greedy people, or four moderately hungry ones.

Perfect every time, this is my go-to meal for after work, Friday night dinner with friends, or a lazy Sunday lunch. Add a salad, good crusty bread and a bottle of wine or whatever else appeals to your rumbling stomach.

1 4½ - 5 lb organic whole roasting chicken
1 lemon
2 large garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh marjoram
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Rinse chicken inside and out and dry well with a tea towel.

3. Generously sprinkle the inner cavity with salt and pepper. I like to use finely ground seasoned sea salt from France.

4. Quarter the lemon, chop the unpeeled garlic cloves in half and roughly chop a generous portion of marjoram. Stuff as much as will fit into the chicken, starting with a piece of lemon, tucking in a few sprigs of marjoram, adding garlic liberally, until you have used as much of the flavourings as possible. Pour a tbsp of olive oil into the cavity.

5. Using kitchen twine, truss and tie the chicken. Rub the outside with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan with rack.  I have recently used my Le Creuset casserole very successfully, using rolled aluminum foil to create a makeshift rack.

6. Place the chicken the chicken in the oven, uncovered, breast side up, and roast for 1 to 1 ½ hours (the general rule of thumb is to cook chicken for 20 minutes per pound), until juices run clear when the thigh is pierced. If you’re using a thermometer, the internal temperature should be about 165°F.*

7. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes so that the juices settle. Cut into pieces and put on a serving platter, squeezing the lemons that were in the chicken over the pieces. Alternatively, you can deglaze the roasting pan with the lemon juice and some white wine, and reduce the juices to a lemony sauce.

*Full disclosure: I have a Turbo Chef, so that beautiful bird is fully cooked and ready in less than 30 minutes. For those of you with high speed ovens, follow the directions. Many roast chicken recipes suggest an initial cooking for 15 minutes at 425°F, and then reducing the heat for the rest of the cooking cycle. Experiment! It's so easy and worth the time and minimal effort to get oh-so-juicy chicken.