For me, this year has been all about getting over my unfounded fears in the kitchen. I used to be afraid of large hunks of meat. I would cook chicken breasts or burgers, maybe even shape some meatballs here and there, but I never made roasts. You hear everyone’s stories about their turkey that burned, or the pot roast that wasn’t ready till the wee hours of the morning and it scares you away a little.
Today I’m here to tell you that the chicken holds no fear (well, pulling out the guts is still a little scary). In fact, roast chicken is one of my new favorite Sunday dinners as it could not be easier, and is comforting without being loaded with fat. I’ve been through this roasting process several times now and found one true stand out.
You can’t beat skin that crispy with a stick. What Giada’s recipe does, more than any other I’ve found, is not only lock in the flavor and juiciness of the chicken, but also bring in the bright, citrusy goodness of the mixture you rub all over it. Not many chicken recipes pull both off. Plus, almost everything that goes into this chicken, aside from the actual chicken itself, is an ingredient I already keep on hand.
The best part about roasted chicken is that anything you don’t eat is easily used up as leftovers. You can have chicken sandwiches, enchiladas, and chicken salads in the week ahead. Then you keep all the bones and throw them in a pot with some onions, carrots and celery to make a chicken stock that beats the pants off of what you usually buy in the store. So it’s an all-out, hands-down winner.
You will need:
- a chicken (mine are usually about 4 pounds)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 tablespoons orange zest, from 2 medium oranges
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from about 3 lemons
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (I never have mint, so I leave this out)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons Marsala wine or dry sherry
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Placing an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of your oven, preheat the oven to 450.
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, shallots, orange zest, lemon zest, thyme, mint, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the zest mixture over the skins of the chicken. Place the remainder of the zest mixture under the skin and into the cavities of the hens.
Now you’re going to grab some kitchen twine and truss (fancy kitchen word for tie) the legs together. What does this mean? Wrap the twine around each leg once, meet in the middle and tie a knot. It’s nothing scary and nothing you can’t do. If you have a roasting pan with a rack, great, use it here. If not, then place the chicken in a shallow 9×13 baking dish that can withstand the heat. Add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, lemon juice, orange juice, and cranberries.
Roasting time will vary a lot here, because chickens are all different shapes and sizes and your temperature is high. Your chicken is done when you pull at the leg and the juices that run out are clear. When this happens, pull the chicken out of the oven, transfer it to a plate, cover it loosely (tent it) with foil and let it rest. It’s been through a lot.
You’re going to use all the juices in the pan to make a sauce. Because of the cranberries the sauce will take on a pink hue, making it more delightful than it already is. If you have done this in a roasting pan, you can usually just crank up the burners underneath it and make the gravy in there. If you’re working with a baking dish, you’ll want to transfer the juices to a saucepan first. Add the flour to the pan and whisk it in. When the gravy starts bubbling, keep whisking and wait about 8-10 whisk-filled minutes for the gravy to thicken. Add the butter at the very end (you can even do that off the heat) for a silky sheen to your sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
The gravy may seem superfluous to you, but once you taste it, you’ll be glad you took the extra 10 minutes to make it. Besides, you were just sitting around letting the chicken rest, right?
Cut the twine off of the chicken legs and serve this baby up.
Giada serves this with a crouton salad, which I will also gladly vouch for.
And one last piece of advice. I firmly believe that carving poultry is a man’s job (see here; mom makes it, but dad holds the knife), so it helps to have an extra pair of hands.