I’ve gotten so sick of buying the same 5-pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts every week. Yes, they are versatile, because I can throw them into fried rice, marinate them, grill them, make Chicken salad, etc. But I really wanted to try something new and when I was flipping through one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks that my Mom gave me for Christmas last year, I came upon his “Perfect Roast Chicken”. It looked like a relatively simple recipe to start with for my first whole roasted chicken, so I went to Whole Foods on a NON-Grocery Shopping day (which tends to happen a lot), and found the smallest whole free-range chicken I could find. It was 4lbs, bigger than Jamie’s recommendation in the recipe, but I knew that finding anything smaller at a grocery store would be next to impossible (I think restaurants swipe up all the smallest ones).
It turned out…SCRUMPTIOUS. And it was so easy! The prep only took about 15-20 minutes, and then once I put it on the oven, I was free to go do other stuff, like clean my closet and write a blog post.
Jamie Oliver’s Perfect Roast Chicken
1 2 1/2-3lb free-range chicken (I used a 4lb one)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 small handfuls of fresh herbs (basil, parsley, marjoram-I added rosemary, too), finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, halved
4 bay leaves, torn
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven and a roasting tray to 425ºF. Wash the chicken inside and out and pat it as dry as possible with paper towels. Rub the cavity with salt, then, carefully grab the skin at the tip of the chicken breasts, making sure it doesn’t rip, and pull up gently. With you other hand gently separate the skin from the meat of the breast. It’s normally connected by a little bit of tissuey-type stuff, and you can either leave this attached in the middle and make two little tunnels on either side or you can try to cut away the middle. Sprinkle a little salt down the gaps that you’ve made, and push in the chopped herbs, trying to spread them evenly. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil. If you want to stuff the chicken, fill the cavity with lemon, bay leaves, and a couple sprigs of rosemary. Pull the skin of the chicken breast forward so that none of the actual flesh is exposed, tuck the winglets under, and tie up as firmly as possible with kitchen twine (I used dental floss, because I didn’t have any twine).
At this point, simply slash across each thigh about 3 or 4 times and rub in some of the leftover herbs. The thigh meat tends to taste better more well-cooked, and this enables it to cook faster. With your hand, rub a little olive oil into the skin of the chicken and season very generously with salt and pepper. Remove the hot tray from the oven and add a little oil. Put the chicken on one side, breast side up, on the try and put it back into the oven. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then turn it over onto the other side, breast side down. Cook for another 5 minutes and then turn it breast side up again, and allow to cook for 1 hour. (The temperature on a meat thermometer should be at least 165º).
For me the hardest part was the carving, having never carved a bird before. From what I read online its best to remove the legs first, then the wings, then to cut it down the center and remove the breasts. Mine looked less than professional, but practice makes perfect, and I’m fine with making lots of this Roast Chicken.