Roasted Chicken with Spring Herbs
Chicken tastes best when it's roasted whole, and this classic dish makes a lot of people very happy. If you have friends coming over and are wondering what to cook, roast a chicken—and dress it up with a hit of flavor by tucking herbs or citrus under the skin before roasting.
- 2 free-range organic chickens, each about 3 1/2 lb.
- 10 sprigs each of fresh thyme, tarragon and flat-leaf parsley, plus 2 sprigs each for garnish
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Pat the chickens thoroughly dry with paper towels.
Place 1 chicken, breast side up, on a work surface. Starting at the neck cavity, slip your fingers under the skin and gently separate the skin from the breast meat on both sides, being careful not to tear the skin. Push 4 of each type of herb sprig under the skin, distributing them as evenly as you can. Repeat with the second chicken and the same number of herb sprigs. Place 1 of each type of herb sprig in the cavity of each chicken.
Rub the chickens all over with the olive oil, and season well inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the chickens, breast side up, on a V-shaped roasting rack and place the rack in a roasting pan. Roast until the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of a thigh, about 1 hour.
Remove the chickens from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Using poultry shears, remove the entire legs, then separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Cut through the center of each chicken, beginning at the wishbone, and then below the breasts to separate the breasts from the carcass. Cut each breast in half through the bones.
Arrange the chicken pieces on a serving platter. Using a spoon, skim the excess fat off the juices and pour the juices on top of the chicken, or reserve for making a simple pan sauce. Garnish with the reserved herb sprigs and serve immediately. Serves 8.
Change up the Flavor
Preserved lemon: Replace the herbs with 1 preserved lemon, cut into 1/8-inch slices and tucked between the chicken skin and breast meat. Stir 2 Tbs. ras el hanout into the olive oil before rubbing onto the chickens.
Chorizo: Remove the casing from 1/2 lb. raw chorizo and divide into 4 balls. Tuck the chorizo between the chicken skin and breast meat, using your fingers to spread it over each breast.
Ricotta and herbs: Mix together 2 cups ricotta cheese and 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives or tarragon. Divide the mixture into 4 balls. Push the ricotta balls between the chicken skin and breast meat, using your fingers to spread it over each breast.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends, by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm (Oxmoor House, 2008).