If you’re celebrating with fewer in the house this year, a chicken may be a more suitable size than a turkey. A chicken is simple, and need not be stuffed with the traditional bread stuffing—tossing half a lemon, some fresh herbs (like sage, rosemary and thyme) and a few garlic cloves inside the chicken is easy and will add flavour.
Roasting a chicken is virtually foolproof: it can be cooked for a long time at a low temperature or for a short time at a high temperature; there is no right or wrong way. This recipe starts with a higher initial temperature to crisp and brown the skin, and then drops to a lower temperature to cook the meat through. If you want to pop your chicken in the oven and forget about it until it’s done, just leave the oven at 400ºF and roast it for about an hour.
If you want to roast potatoes along with the chicken, peel (or not) as many potatoes as you would like, cut them into chunks of similar size and boil them for about 10 minutes. Drain them well and shake them around a little in the empty pan to crush the edges a bit. (This will make them crispier.) Scatter them around the chicken about halfway through the roasting time, and stir them once or twice to coat with the pan juices. If the chicken has finished cooking but the potatoes haven’t, leave them in the oven for awhile longer while the chicken rests.
By Julie Van Rosendaal
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for about half an hour so it isn’t cold when you put it in the oven.
Put the chicken into a roasting dish, baking pan or ovenproof skillet. Throw the lemon half and garlic inside the cavity of the chicken. Trussing the chicken is unnecessary, but you can tie the legs together with some kitchen string if you want to. Rub the chicken all over with butter or oil – the fat helps produce a golden, crispy crust – and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, mash some fresh herbs or garlic into the butter to make a paste before you rub it over the skin. Some people like to loosen the skin and rub the butter underneath the skin, directly on the meat, as well.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375ºF. If you want to baste it you can, whenever you think of it, but it’s not necessary. Roast the chicken for another 50-60 minutes, until it’s deep golden, the drumsticks wiggle in their sockets, and the juices run clear when pierced.
If you have an oven thermometer, it should read170º F when poked into the thickest part of the thigh. Make sure your thermometer isn’t touching bone, which conducts heat better than the meat and will give you an inaccurate reading.
Let your chicken it stand for 10 minutes before carving it. While it’s resting, pour the pan juices out and spoon off as much of the fat as you can. Use the juices to make gravy (see below) or just serve them as is, drizzled over the chicken.
To make gravy, first remove as much fat as you can from the pan juices, and set it aside. Drain the juices into another container. Place the roasting pan or another saucepan over medium-high heat while the chicken is resting. Add 1-2 Tbsp. of the reserved chicken fat or olive or canola oil to the pan, whisk in 2-4 Tbsp of flour and cook the mixture, whisking constantly and scraping up any flavorful browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the it turns golden. Whisk in the reserved juices plus enough chicken stock to make about 2 cups and cook, whisking constantly, until the gravy bubbles and thickens. If you have some roasted garlic cloves that roasted with the chicken, smush them into the gravy as well. Season it with salt and pepper.