roast-chicken-3

Jeff would happily eat roast chicken every week, so I’m always looking for new recipes.

This Herb Roast Chicken is from “The River Cottage Meat Book,” the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook of the Year for 2008.

When Jeff bought the book, I was sore afraid we’d have a fridge full of offal, and he’d take up butchering as a hobby, but then I started flipping through the book myself, and it’s a surprisingly good read. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is exactly the kind of guy you’d want coaching you through the finer points of meat – a chef and food writer, brilliant, funny, passionate and down-to-earth.

His recipe for roast chicken is simple. There’s no trussing the bird or even patting it dry. No stuffing the cavity. Just slather on the herb butter, roast and baste. Once the cooked bird has rested, you carve it in the pan so that the pieces fall into the buttery pan juices. And I couldn’t exaggerate how delicious those buttery pieces are. A simple, rustic recipe that sings with flavor.

A roast chicken I could probably eat once a week.

Herb Roast Chicken

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Meat Book”

Serves 4 to 5

  • 3- to 4-pound roasting chicken
  • 7 tablespoons soft butter*
  • Generous handfuls of fresh herbs, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 glass of white wine (or cider)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, and spread out its legs from the body. Enlarge the opening of the cavity with your fingers, so hot air can circulate inside the bird. (It will cook quicker like that.)
  3. In a small bowl, combine the butter, herbs and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. Smear the mixture all over the chicken, outside and in.
  4. Slide the roasting pan onto the center rack in the oven, and leave for 20 minutes (phase 1).
  5. Baste the chicken, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F, pour the wine into the pan (not over the bird), and roast the bird for another 30 to 40 minutes (phase 2), depending on its size.
  6. Open the oven door, turn the oven off, and leave the bird for 15 to 20 minutes (phase 3).
  7. Carve the bird in the pan, as coarsely and crudely as you like (no wafer-thin breast slices, please), letting the pieces fall in the buttery pan juices. Serve immediately.

Note: For a bigger bird, add a few minutes to each phase of cooking. You may also wish to protect the bird’s skin with buttered foil for the first 20 minutes of phase 2. A good test for doneness is to pierce the part of the bird where the thigh joins the breast; the juices released should run clear.

*Gluten-Free Tip: Make sure your butter is gluten-free.