Who doesn't love a good roast chicken? I know I do, and I was curious to try Elia's recipe, because I have one of my own that I like very much. Also, with Thanksgiving coming up, doing one or two roast chickens instead of a roast turkey can be a welcome substitute for a turkey, especially for small families.
I remember the episode this chicken came from. The cheftestants were asked to create a dish to represent of one of the seven deadly sins, and Elia's sin was pride. I remember her telling the judges that she chose to make a chicken, and that it's a very "proud" chicken. And based on how it came out for me, it was a proud chicken indeed!
Finding the Chicken: The hardest part of this recipe, as it turned out, was finding the right chicken. The recipe called for a 7-pound organic roasting chicken. I had no trouble finding organic chickens, but finding one that was 7 pounds proved to be impossible. I went to the Food Emporium and the biggest organic chickens they had were between 4 and 5 pounds. I went to Eli's and found the same thing, so I improvised and just got a smaller chicken. Unfortunately, the size of the chicken actually did affect the rest of recipe, as I'll explain more later.
Preparing the Chicken: This recipe was pretty easy and relied on a lot of butter to make the chicken crispy and the vegetables yummy. First, I had to rub the chicken all over with about a half a stick of butter.
Once the chicken has been thoroughly coated in butter it also needs to be generously seasoned with salt and pepper. I also tied the legs together with kitchen string to keep the bird as one tight unit.
Preparing the Vegetables:
The next step is to prepare all the vegetables which will roast with the bird. The vegetables that Elia suggests are carrots, zucchini, button mushrooms and fingerling potatoes. I made sure to find the best vegetables I could.
I thought the carrots were particularly beautiful. I chopped the carrots.
I chopped the zucchini.
I cleaned the mushrooms before chopping them by rubbing them down with a clean kitchen towel. I stemmed and halved the mushrooms.
I couldn't find fingerling potatoes, so I substituted red bliss potatoes, trying to choose the smallest ones I could. I halved the larger of the potatoes and kept the really small ones whole.
After all the vegetables were chopped, I tossed them together in a bowl.
Then I melted about a stick of butter and added the butter to the mixed vegetables.
After that, I thoroughly mixed all the vegetables to get them evenly coated with the butter and added salt and pepper to the vegetables as well.
In addition to surrounding the chicken with the vegetables during roasting, the recipe called for fresh rosemary and thyme.
Getting the Chicken Ready for Roasting:
At this point I surrounded the chicken with all the vegetables and the herbs and poured over them and into the roasting pan 1/2 cup of chicken stock. It was time to put the chicken in the oven at 400F and let time work it's magic!
This is when the trouble started. Basically, for a 7-pound bird, the recipe said it should take about 1and 1/2 to 2 hours and would be ready when an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh read 180F. The problem was that this was a much smaller bird - about 4 1/2 pounds, so I thought it would take less time. I started checking on it at about 1 hour 15 minutes in. It was nowhere near ready. I think I may have affected the cooking process because I kept checking every 15 minutes after that, and perhaps by opening and closing the oven door so much I was actually making the process take even longer. Anyway, after about 2 hours (this surprised me), the chicken was ready.
When it was finally done, it looked gorgeous - the skin was all golden brown, the vegetables looked nicely roasted, and the kitchen smelled terrific from the roasted chicken and the smells of the roasted herbs.
Plating the Dish:
After letting the chicken rest for a little bit, I took it out of the roasting pan and put it on a serving platter.
Then I surrounded the chicken with the vegetables and more fresh rosemary and thyme, which make a beautiful presentation.
After that, I actually moved away the vegetables from the chicken again, so I could carve it and create a plate. The skin really crisped up well, which I was excited about. I made a place of several slices of breast meat, a leg and an assortment of vegetables.
My Suggestions To Make This Dish Even Better:
The chicken was terrific. I really have no suggestions on how to make it better, although in the bonus material, I'll let you know how I make my roast chicken.
I do have some suggestions regarding the vegetables though. Even though it ultimately took two hours for this bird to cook, the vegetables simply were not done. The mushrooms and the carrots were fully cooked, but the zucchini and the potatoes were not, which was a real disappointment. Actually, I noticed this when I took the bird out of the oven, so what I did was I put it on the serving dish and put the vegetables back in the oven for 15 more minutes of cooking. Even that was not enough for the potatoes. I know I substituted red bliss potatoes, so perhaps the fingerlings would have roasted faster. The recipe calls for all the vegetables to be cut in big chunks, but in retrospect, I would have made the zucchini slices thinner and would have chopped up the potatoes more. And the one vegetable that was missing in my opinion were onions. I love roasted onions with a roasted chicken!
Final Word On this Dish:
The chicken was truly amazing: moist, tender, juicy, flavorful , crispy tasty skin - it was really really good. I just would have liked to have seen the vegetables come out a little bit better.
I thought I'd say a few words on how I usually roast my chicken. Like Elia, I like to use a lot of butter. But what I do is I create a flavored butter compound by pushing some garlic through a press, adding some herbs and salt and pepper and also some lemon zest to about a stick of softened butter. I mix it all up and put it back in the fridge for 15 minutes just to harden up a little bit. Then I take my butter compound and I rub it under the skin of the chicken getting it all over the breast meat and the thighs. Any leftover butter I rub on top of the skin. Then I fill the bird's cavity with chopped onions and lemons, as well as sprigs of fresh rosemary. And of course, I season the whole bird well with salt and pepper. Then I roast the bird breast side down for the first half of the roasting and flip it over half way through and roast it right side up for the rest of the roasting. I do this so that the whole bird gets even cooking and it also makes the breast meat super-juicy. I find that my method creates a very moist bird that has flavorful meat. So many people don't eat chicken skin, so I like this method because they can get the benefit of all of the flavor that the compound butter imparted without having to eat the skin. I also find that the onions and lemon pieces in the cavity "steam" the bird from the inside, also contributing to a very moist bird.