June 2, 2011

Madness, Thy Name Is Roast Chicken


It's hot. I have started my first summer class, which, in addition to three hours of lab and two hours of lecture a day, involves a significant amount of walking, a mysteriously heavy backpack, and lots and lots of sweat. Lots. And lots. Of sweat. Also, the need for better deodorant.

Today I don't have to sweat profusely while lugging an organic chemistry book to and fro. So, of course, I'm going to roast a chicken. What better way to enjoy a day out of the sun than to heat up the kitchen? And what else do I have to do today anyway? Somehow on my second-to-last day of work before taking a 6-week break to knock out two of my grad school prerequisites I find my afternoon work-free. I mean, I could study for my chemistry final on Monday or my first organic chemistry test next Thursday, but I just cannot waste that darn chicken. It's not cooking itself, though it will be rotting itself if I don't intervene soon.

We won't even be eating it for dinner tonight because we're going to see... wait for it, you're going to be jealous... Brian Greene speak at the World Science Festival. I know. Don't be a hater just because it's sold out and you don't have tickets. Graybeard might have to work, so maybe you can come with me to hear about The Dark Side of the Universe:

"For all we understand about the universe, 96% of what’s out there still has scientists in the dark. Astronomical observations have established that familiar matter—atoms—accounts for only 4% of the weight of the cosmos. The rest—dark matter and dark energy—is invisible to our telescopes. But what really is this dark stuff? How do we know it’s there? And what does it do? From the formation of galaxies to the farthest reaches of space, it appears that darkness rules. Without dark matter and dark energy, the universe today and in the far future would be a completely different place. Join us in a discussion with leading researchers who smash together particles, dive into underground mines, and explore the edges of the known universe in search of clues to nature’s dark side."

Yeah, I know.

(No, you're a nerd.)

(For thinking I'm a nerd.)

(I am a nerd though, so I forgive you and take back what I said about you being a nerd.)

Anyway, Brian Greene is to blame for the chicken that must be dealt with in the middle of the afternoon instead of cooked for dinner like a good little chicken. Ever since I read this, I feel strongly compelled to buy whole chickens. I've even made chicken stock with the leftovers and icky bits, and it is delicious, sitting in my freezer awaiting it's opportunity to be a part of something spectacular (I'm thinking risotto, but that seems like a lot of work to go to to potentially ruin with fake cheese).

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Let's see about the Barefoot Contessa's Perfect Roast Chicken, shall we? I even picked up kitchen string for the occasion. I'm trying to master the roast chicken. So far, I've had the best luck with the slow cooker, but I want a pretty one from the oven with a golden skin.

Here's the slightly adapted recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.


1 5- to 6-pound roasting chicken (Mine was a little over 3 pounds.)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 tablespoon melted Earth Balance (that's vegan margarine, for us non-Dairy Eaters)
1 onion
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat flour. I always do, and I never notice a difference between that and the white stuff.)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Remove the giblets from the chicken, then rinse the chicken inside and out. Cut off any excess fat. I find that kitchen scissors work better than a knife for this. Pat the chicken dry.

3. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon, and all the garlic inside.

4. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Tie the legs together with kitchen string if you have it. I did this for the first time ever, and it was slippery and tricky. There must be a better way to do it. I don't know how much this affected the taste of the chicken, but it sure did look nice and professional, and it kept the insides from falling out.

Doesn't it look so much better?

6. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. I tried to do that, but when I pulled the little guy out of the oven the wing tips were flapping at me. There must be a better way to do that too. In the picture in the cookbook it looks like the BC wrapped the string around the whole chicken. Maybe that's why her wing tips stayed put.

7. Scatter the onion slices around the chicken.

8. Roast the chicken for 1.5 hours or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. (I checked my 3-pounder at an hour and 20 minutes, and it was done.) Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.

9. Remove all the fat and juice from the bottom of the pan, reserving two tablespoons in a small cup. Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Combine the 2 Tbsp of chicken fat with the flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste.

10. Slice the chicken and serve with gravy for Linner (lunch/dinner), if you're me and you're going to see Brian Greene tonight.

This was a very good chicken. It's not blow-your-mind good, so I will keep trying other recipes to find an award-winning roast chicken recipe. However, if I had to make a roast chicken for a surprise visit from Brain Greene, I would be proud to serve this to him and would expect him to ask for seconds. (He seems polite like that.)


  1. YAY! We roast chicken all the time -- its actually so easy to do. Tie the legs easily by crossing them first and then twisting the string around the legs.

  2. Em, I knew there had to be an easy way. Now I want to go and get another chicken just to try tying its legs that way. How do you roast your chicken?

  3. By the time I finished reading this, I could taste it. Yummy, as Vera would say! ;) Mom

  4. I really appreciate that you used the whole chicken. I always think about all the waste, how Mad Cow and so many other unnatural disasters occur bc of the inane selfishness of capitalism, etc. Everything has a an up and downside- but individually we make a difference. I am your opposite- I eat dairy and meat- but I eat meat and fish very moderately; beef once a month, chicken once a week, fish once a week. Rest of the time I eat eggs, fruits, veggies, grains, legumes and er..um..sugar. I like your blog- Robin recommended well!

  5. Grayest of BeardsJune 3, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    So good. Melted in my mouth. Plus, the gravy was superb. Another amazing meal by an amazing girl.

  6. Thanks, Mom! This has taken over as best whole chicken so far, though the one I made in the slow cooker for you and Dad is a close second.

    Daniela, I would eat dairy too if I could! My darn body seems to take issue with that though. Sounds like your diet is what I'm working more and more toward (minus the dairy). I too think we can make a difference, and that there are lots of changes to our food systems that I would like to make happen. I checked out your blog, and I really like it, especially the post about what "struggling" really means. I'll have to thank Robin again for recommending my blog. Isn't she awesome? I miss her!

    Grayest of Beards, another amazing compliment from an amazing boy. ;)

  7. I never put cheese in my risotto. Have a great beef risotto to share if you like.

  8. Auntie Em, I would love to see your recipe! I'll make it and write about it here. I'm happy to hear that risotto doesn't need cheese to be good.