Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken

Almost every meat eater I know has a soft spot for roasted chicken. Years ago, when I was in that camp, I hankered for the only versions I knew the taste of - from restaurants and the supermarket deli. At home, we never got roasted whole birds (or bone in pieces for that matter) unless it was the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, and (as I'm sure happens in every family with whining kids and a gazillion side dishes to think of) they were always a strange combination of greasy skin and dry meat. Interestingly, it was only after I stopped eating chicken (or any meat) that I started cooking it beyond a broiled skinless, boneless breast, and with cacciatore, coq au vin and a full-out roast under my belt, I'm edging closer to the domestic prowess my mom and grandma had before us meddling, hungry kids got in the way.  

Actually, it was due to a request from my mom and stepbrother (who normally loathes chicken) that I fired up the oven for this latest bird. I basically used the same process as my Double - Lemon Roast Chicken, but this year we weren't growing lemon balm. Instead, I used the lime basil and lemon thyme in the garden along with lots of fresh lemon zest and juice for the same zippy flavour, brought in locally raised, organic meat and took into account a year's worth of learning from cookbooks, TV shows and blogs to refine the roasting process a little (and try to improve the final result). I was nervous as my mom cut into the roasted, rested birds and took a taste - until she beamed and declared it delicious. My stepbrother, stepdad and grandma agreed: if it was even possible, the meat was more tender, the skin more crisp and the flavour more imbued than the original! 

Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken

Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken
Serves 8
1/3 cup salted cultured butter, softened
1/3 cup packed lime basil leaves, minced, plus 1/2 cup for stuffing
3 tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves, plus two sprigs for stuffing
zest of 2 organic lemons (why I chose organic for this recipe)
generous pinch black pepper
generous pinch paprika
6 lbs organic fresh roasting chicken (why I chose organic and fresh for this recipe)
2 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
3 organic lemons, quartered
  1. In a small bowl, beat together the butter, lime basil, lemon thyme, lemon zest, pepper and paprika.
  2. Cover and allow to infuse at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate up to 1 week (bring to warm room temperature before using).
  3. Loosen the skin all over the breast, back and legs (don't bother with the wings) and stuff with the compound butter, massaging into an even layer.
  4. Rub the outside of the bird with paprika and Kosher salt and place four lemon quarters in the cavity.
  5. Stuff the remaining herbs in after the lemon, followed by 4 more lemon quarters.
  6. Place chicken, breast side down, in a lightly greased roasting pan. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to 8.
  7. 1 hour before cooking, remove chicken from the fridge.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F.
  9. Scatter remaining lemon quarters in the pan around the chicken.
  10. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes, then turn the bird over, uncover and roast a further 30-35 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 180F.
  11. Remove from oven and tent with foil for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove and discard stuffing before carving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 537.3
Total Fat: 41.4 g
Cholesterol: 179.1 mg
Sodium: 828.4 mg
Total Carbs: 0.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 37.7 g