A vegetarian friend of mine recently offered to try some chicken if I got the uber-organic variety and cooked it for him. I went to a few sources to hunt down the perfect recipe--my housemate Josh, the Joy of Cooking, and Thomas Keller. I took some pieces from each, and ended up with some pretty amazing chicken. The salt helps keep the chicken moist and flavorful, just like the Cooks Illustrated method for cooking a turkey that my aunt and uncle use every year. The method also has you create some space between the skin and the meat where you can later stuff flavored butter.
The herb butter is a contribution from my housemate Josh, and is really delicious. Feel free to substitute any fresh herb you have on hand. If you don't have time to dry-brine the chicken first, you can always add salt to the butter; if you are going to salt the chicken first, then make sure to use unsalted butter so that it doesn't end up overly salty. We surrounded the chicken with white and sweet potatoes, but any good roasting veggies would work well here (carrots, parsnips, etc.) Make sure to toss them in a bit of oil first so they don't dry out. Depending on the size of your chicken, it may take more or less time to cook; if the potatoes aren't completely cooked through when the bird is done, just take the bird out of the oven, cover it with foil, and roast the potatoes a bit more.
The verdict? My friend isn't permanently quitting his veggie ways, but he definitely loved the chicken. Win!
Perfect Roasted Chicken with Sweet and White Potatoes
1 whole chicken
5 T butter, at room temperature
Coarsely ground black pepper
2 T finely chopped fresh savory
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 white potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
1. Pat the chicken dry. Use a chopstick to separate the skin from the flesh of the breast and thighs.
2. Rub kosher salt onto the breast and thighs, under the skin. Sprinkle some salt into the cavity of the bird. Place into a container the size of the chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for between 4 hours and 1 day.
3. Meanwhile, mix the butter with the pepper and savory. I used an electric mixer because my butter wasn't completely softened; if yours is, you could likely just use a wooden spoon. Set aside until ready to prepare the bird.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the bird from refrigerator. Rub the butter beneath the skin and on the outside of the bird. Place any remaining butter in the cavity of the chicken.
5. Toss the potatoes with just enough oil to coat, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a Pyrex baking dish, and surround it with the potatoes. You can also roast the potatoes in a separate dish.
6. Place the chicken in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Baste occasionally. Roast until the juices run clear when you pierce the chicken or until the meat reaches 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. Cooking time will vary according to the size of your chicken.