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Ten Steps to the Perfect Roast Chicken

By on October 4, 2013
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This roast chicken could quite easily be the most perfect food or at least the perfect basis for any number of delicious, easy and healthful dishes. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing alternative to baked chicken breasts or an easy-but-impressive option for your next dinner gathering, this roast chicken is likely to become your go-to dish.

From roast chicken slices served with fresh local vegetables to eat-all-week dishes like roast chicken wraps with homemade salsa, roast chicken is easy enough for the first-time cook and versatile enough to inspire the most seasoned of chefs. Best of all, using classic Mediterranean ingredients like lemon, fennel and olive oil enhances the flavor without adding fat. 

Choosing Your Chicken
Because eating healthfully doesn’t just mean paying attention to what we eat, it also means paying attention to where the food we eat comes from, try to choose locally raised free-range chicken whenever possible. If you can swing the extra couple of dollars, you’ll be helping your health and your local economy – as well as reducing food miles, oil and energy consumption in the process. Best of all, though, it’s a difference you can clearly taste. 

I prefer using a smaller “fryer” chicken as opposed to the larger “roaster” chickens sold in most butcher sections as smaller birds are usually a little more tender. That being said, they don’t take quite as long to cook – after half an hour, take a cake tester or skewer and gently press into the meat. When the juices run clear, the chicken is done. 

Perfect Roast Chicken
This simple version uses lemons, fennel, extra virgin olive oil and a scant handful of seasoned salt to impart the chicken with a fresh, succulent flavor. Try serving it with lemon-infused wild rice (just add a few fresh lemon slices to the rice water while it’s cooking) and steamed asparagus.

What You Need

One 3-4lb chicken
1-2 whole fresh lemons, halved
1 large fennel bulb, quartered
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (1-2 capfuls depending on the size of your chicken)
Sea salt
Ground paprika
Garlic powder
1 roasting pan 

What You Do

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

2. While the oven is heating up, take a small bowl and blend 2 tablespoons of paprika with a tablespoon of garlic powder and one of rosemary, plus a good pinch of salt. Skip this step if you’re using a seasoned salt blend like I do.

3. Remove the bag of entrails and other jiggly bits from inside the cavity of the chicken. (If you want to use the chicken carcass to make stock for soups and sauces, place the entrails in a plastic bag and freeze until you’re ready to use them).

4. Place the chicken ‘backbone up’ on the roasting pan, then stick the lemon halves and fennel quarters inside the chicken cavity. I usually end up using about 2 lemon halves and 2 fennel quarters, though if the chicken is larger (or smaller) you may use more or less. 
(Note: If you do have an extra lemon half left, you can always rub the cut-end over the outside of the chicken and squeeze a little of the juice over the skin (stick in the microwave for about 30 seconds before you do this and you’ll find you get about 10 times more juice out of it)).

 5. Use a small length of chicken string to tie the two drumstick ends together to ‘close’ the cavity and keep the lemons in.  

6. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil (to taste) over the chicken, then pour some of the spice rub mix into your hand and rub it all over the chicken. 

7. Once you’ve rubbed the olive oil and spice mix well into the chicken (make sure you get as many nooks and crannies as you can!), place the chicken on a middle shelf in the oven.

8. Leave it on 400 for about 45 minutes to really get the skin to crisp up, then turn  the oven down to 375 for another 45 minutes to an hour.
9. If you have a meat thermometer, use that as your guide: when the breast temperature reaches 165-170 the chicken is done. You can also look for the chicken to take on a beautiful, golden brown – the color of summer barley – and for the juices to run totally clear when you prick it with a knife (no cloudiness).
10. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it “rest” for a good 10 or 15 minutes  covered loosely in a tent of aluminum foil.

By Emma Williams. For more great recipes, tips and ideas for cooking, baking and entertaining in today’s world, visit www.moderngirlskitchen.com.

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