When I gave up chicken 7 years ago I was sure I’d never go back. Meat isn’t good for me anyway, I reasoned. But to tell the truth, I was simply chickened out. At the time, chicken was the only animal protein I ate (having decided years earlier beef was a death sentence.) Being a weight obsessed collegiate, I also dabbled in the “Atkins thing”, which meant eating protein, aka CHICKEN, everyday. Each week I bought a bag of frozen Tyson’s chicken breasts to pick at over the next 7 days. No wonder I was insane. You can only eat chicken stir-fry so many times before you lose it. And I know you are going to think this is totally “woo woo” but I started acting like a crazy chicken too! I was irritable, easily flustered, and ran around campus frazzled like, you guessed it, a chicken with my head cut off.
It felt really good giving up animal flesh. I felt light and energized in my body and got to tell people, “Oh no, I don’t eat THAT.” It was self-righteous and I liked it! Yet once I started eating meat again I still couldn’t stomach chicken. I ate beef, lamb, even goat but there was no way I was headed down the chicken path…until I went to Zuni Cafe. I was having a lovely lunch of local anchovies and salad with Jacqueline (crispy chicken skin girl) when the next table’s waiter delivered their order of roasted chicken with Tuscan-style bread salad. I almost blurted out, “Excuse me, that order was actually for me,” but instead I bit my tongue and shot our neighbors nasty glances as they inhaled that sumptuous chicken. That was it for me! I was ready for a little chick chick. Of course, it took 6 months and 1 meat book later to actually make chicken but hey, it was worth the wait.
I’ve made this recipe a few times and it is always a hit. The traditional recipe calls for white white but I prefer using verjus. It’s sweet clean flavor does something magical with the natural fat and juices of the chicken. Enjoy!
Herb Roasted Chicken
Recipe adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Don’t be intimidated by his 3 phase roasting technique. It’s quite easy and completely worth it!
- One 3-4 pound organic roasting chicken
- 4 tbs. softened organic butter or olive oil
- 2-3 handfuls of fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, chives, cilantro etc., chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup of verjus (if not available use white wine or lemon juice)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the bird from the fridge an hour or two before cooking. Remove any string and place the bird in a baking/roasting dish (I used my le cruset). Spread out its legs away from the body and enlarge the opening of the body with your fingers to allow hot air to circulate inside the bird. (I’m used to this step now but at first it was a little gross.)
Place butter in a bowl and toss in your herbs and salt. Mix well and smear the mixture all over the bird, inside and out. Place the bird in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes (phase one).
Turn down the oven to 350 degrees, add the verjus to the pan (do not pour over the bird) and cook for another 35-45 minutes (phase two). To test the chicken for doneness, pierce the point where the thigh meets the breast. Juices should run clear.
Open the oven door half way, turn off the heat, and let the bird sit for another 15-20 minutes (phase 3) before carving.
Carve the bird in the pan allowing the pieces to fall into the juice. I served this with a green salad and a giant Acme olive loaf to soak up the juices. So good!