When it comes to good old-fashioned home cooking, nothing beats a whole roasted chicken. The flavor and texture of the bird are much better than when it is baked as individual parts. It's cheaper, too.
A roasted chicken can be the anchor of the simplest family supper or of the most festive dinner party. It's the accompaniments that make the difference.
For weekday meals, my usual routine is to bake Idaho potatoes, yams, small red potatoes tossed in oil and seasonings, and halved acorn squash along with the chicken. Once all of this is simply prepared and popped into the oven, little is required of the cook. While the chicken rests before being served, larger potatoes can finish baking until soft. Add a green salad or coleslaw, and you've got my idea of a wonderful meal.
It's easy enough to prepare a whole chicken for roasting. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees; high heat roasts the chicken to perfection while maximizing moistness. Wash the chicken with cold water and dry with paper towels. Trim any visible fat. Keep refrigerated until roasting time. Always tuck in the wings and tie the legs together with string after seasoning.
A 3-pound frying chicken takes about 50 minutes (two 3-pound fryers roasted in the same pan with space in between cook in the same 50 minutes); a small 4-pound roasting chicken takes about 1 hour, 5 minutes; larger birds need more time accordingly (as well as more seasoning). When the roasting is done, let the chicken rest 10 minutes out of the oven on a warm serving platter. Pierce the meat between the thigh and breast area with a sharp knife to be sure it's fully cooked; the juices should run clear, not pink.
The challenge is to infuse the chicken with great flavor--especially since most people nowadays don't eat the skin. If you have the time, you can rub the chicken with a marinade an hour or two in advance. However, an intensely flavored mix of seasonings makes this unnecessary, especially when it is spread under the skin, instead of on top of it.
You might want to line a shallow roasting pan with foil; the shallow design allows the chicken to cook more quickly and the foil makes clean-up easy.
In this recipe, the fresh-tasting flavors of orange and rosemary permeate the chicken. Serve the chicken with a rice and mushroom casserole and a mixed green salad.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH ORANGE AND ROSEMARY
1 (4-pound) roasting chicken
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon safflower oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 orange, cut into sixths
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Trim any visible fat. Place chicken, breast-side up, on foil-lined shallow roasting pan. Mix 2 teaspoons rosemary with oil, garlic, shallot, mustard, orange zest and juice, salt and pepper in small dish. Using fingers, carefully separate skin from entire breast area of chicken without tearing, making pocket. Spoon 2 tablespoons orange mixture into pocket. Massage gently on surface to distribute mixture evenly over breast area.
Sprinkle remaining rosemary into cavity of chicken. Add orange segments. Smear remaining orange mixture over surface of chicken. Tuck wings under body and tie legs together with string.
Place pan on rack in center of 450-degree oven and roast until juices from thigh area run clear (not pink), about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Transfer from pan to warm serving platter. Let rest 10 minutes before carving. Garnish with orange slices from cavity. Makes 4 servings.
Here the roasted chicken is seasoned with paprika and covered with sweet onion slices, giving it a mild but most definite flavor. Serve the chicken and onions over egg noodles, alongside green beans sprinkled with fresh dill.
\f7 ROAST CHICKEN WITH ONIONS AND PAPRIKA
1 (4-pound) chicken
1 1/2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (mild, sweet paprika)
2 medium Spanish onions (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons safflower oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Trim any visible fat. Sprinkle cavity of chicken with 1/2 tablespoon paprika. Place handful onions inside cavity. Place remaining onions in center area of foil-lined shallow roasting pan. Place chicken, breast-side up, on onions.
Mix remaining paprika, oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in small dish. Using fingers, carefully separate skin from entire breast area of chicken without tearing it, making pocket. Spoon 1 tablespoon paprika mixture into pocket. Massage surface gently to distribute evenly over breast area. Smear remaining mixture over surface of chicken. Tuck wings under body and tie legs together with string.