Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Italian Herb Roast Chicken & Vegetables

I love roast chicken and, for the longest time, was afraid of attempting to roast them whole at home because I always thought it would be hard for some reason and I would end up with really dry chicken. So I just settled for store bought rotisserie chicken and even then, they were sometimes dry or lacking in flavor.

A couple of years back, I watched a cooking show and saw how easy it was to prepare roast chicken at home. I tried it once and have never looked back. This recipe is now my go-to roast chicken recipe and it produces a flavorful moist chicken every time. My seasoning is different than the one used in the show I watched, but I adopted the technique the chef used at the time -- adding butter under the chicken skin.

Not only does this technique produce a crisp skin but the butter helps to keep the chicken, especially the breast, moist and juicy. If you've ever roasted a bird, you'll know that the most challenging part is the breast which can easily turn out too dry.

I use a dry Italian herb seasoning mix but you can also use fresh herbs if you have them on hand. I recently bought McCormick's Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder and, after using it for the first time last night, will no longer go back to pre-ground herb mixes where everything in it is a green flake. You can taste the difference and you can see it too. Check out the photo below. I can see and smell rosemary,  oregano, thyme, peppercorn and other herbs and spices.

Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder by McCormick:

The chicken is roasted on top of a bed of vegetables (pick your favorites -- you don't have to stick with my veggie choices), making this basically a one-pan dish. The vegetables will caramelize in the oven and soak up the flavor of the chicken along with the herbs and spices. Serve the chicken and vegetables together with rice pilaf like I did and you've got yourself a delicious roast chicken dinner. 

This recipe takes about a half hour of prep time and then an hour and a half of bake time so be sure to take that into consideration. Your whole house will smell divine too, which is not always a good thing because the kids will be bugging you every 10 minutes and asking, "Is it done yet? How much longer??" :)

Serves up to 6 people.

1 whole 5 to 6 pound chicken
1/2 stick butter, softened just enough to be mashed
1-1/2 teaspoons McCormick Italian Seasoning, divided in half
5 cloves garlic, roughly minced then divided in half
1 lemon, halved
1 onion, chopped into large chunks
2 carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped into large chunks
1/4 piece of pumpkin, chopped into large chunks
Lots of salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare the vegetables by chopping them up and spreading them out in a large
baking dish. Add the minced garlic, half of the Italian seasoning and about
a half teaspoon of salt and dashes of pepper. Mix everything together and set aside.

Next, prep the chicken. If your chicken came with giblets, 
remove them from the cavity and discard (or keep, 
if you're using them for another recipe.) Rinse the 
chicken under running water very well, including the 
cavity, then pat dry with paper towels.

With a pair of sharp kitchen shears, snip off excess fat
and skin at the tail end and around the neck. 

Also snip off the chicken's butt. Some people leave this on
but I prefer to remove it. It's up to you.

Salt and pepper the chicken VERY liberally.
Don't skimp on the salt here or your chicken will have no flavor.
Be sure to also season the chicken cavity well.

In a bowl, combine the butter, remaining herb seasoning
and garlic. Mash it all together.

Using a sharp knife, carefully separate the chicken skin from 
the meat. Try not to pierce holes through the skin. You want
 to try and create a skin pocket and should be able to loosen 
the entire skin on the back and most of the legs and thighs.

Stuff the butter mixture into the "skin pocket" and
spread it around as evenly as you can.

Stuff the cut lemons into the cavity.

I usually truss my chicken but I ran out of kitchen string so I didn't truss it this time. Trussing the chicken is recommended because it helps the chicken cook more evenly. However, not trussing it this time did not really impact me very much. I got lucky and didn't get burnt wings or anything. Still, it's good practice to always truss your chicken. To truss it, simply tie the chicken drumsticks together with some kitchen string or twine and tuck the wings into themselves so that they don't end up being burnt.

Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and place into
the pre-heated oven. Roast uncovered for 1-1/2 hours or until
the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh.

Beautifully browned after 1-1/2 hours in the oven.
The skin is nice and crisp at this point.

Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. (At this
point, the kids are hovering around me, eager to eat it now
but I had to still shoo them away.) 
Cover loosely with foil
and allow to rest for about 
15 to 20 minutes. 

Transfer the vegetables from the pan into a serving dish. You can see that they've
become nicely caramelized and tender. They smell wonderful too.

Carve the chicken and place on a serving platter. Start by removing the wings, drumsticks and thighs then cut down the center point at the breast. Slice against the rib cage and slowly carve away large pieces of the breast meat. (Remember to save the carcass for soup or for making congee!)

The wings don't have the crunchy skin but they are tender and juicy nonetheless!

And dinner is finally served!

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