If nothing else, every home cook should know how to make the perfect Roast Chicken. It’s inexpensive, soul satisfying, and equally impressive as either the centerpiece of an elegant dinner party, or served to the family for a laidback, weeknight supper. Chefs as noted as Thomas Keller and Lidia Bastianich would both request the humble roast chicken for their last meal on earth. And as we recently illustrated in our article “Food Trends to Watch for in 2013,” family-style, roast chicken dinners have become the pride of some of the best restaurants in the city.
Marc Forgione and Kutsher’s Tribeca keep it simple by flavoring their birds with herbs, citrus, garlic, and basic stuffings, while NoMad and Commerce take chicken to the next level by perfuming it with black truffle and basting it with foie gras. But you don’t need to be a trained chef (or have luxury ingredients at your disposal) to master the perfect roast chicken at home. And once you have the basic method down, it’s a recipe you can add to, and riff on, again and again.
The Ultimate Roast Chicken
1/2 cup softened butter
1 4-pound free range chicken, giblets removed
Salt and pepper
Several sprigs of thyme, tarragon, rosemary and/or lavender
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan, and cover it evenly with the softened butter. Generously sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and the juice of the lemon. Fill the cavity with the herbs, garlic, and squeezed out lemon halves.
Roast the chicken in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Baste with juices, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and roast for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally. The chicken is done when the juices run clear, the skin is golden brown and crisp, and the internal temperature reads 160. You can test this by inserting a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken leg.
Turn the oven off, leaving the door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the natural pan juices.