Sunday, June 6, 2010


When I think of simple, substantial meals, there is one thing that always comes to mind: a whole roasted chicken. While there are a number of ways to prepare and roast a chicken (whole, in-pieces, butterflied), I chose most recently to go the route of cooking the whole bird.

The great thing about whole chicken is the fact that it has its skin intact, which offers many functional advantages. One advantage, outside of keeping the meat moist while cooking, is the placement of a number of seasonings, herbs and spices underneath the skin to flavor the inner meat. I love using a mixture of fresh green herbs, garlic, and citrus. For a recent meal, I chose to season the chicken with a paste of herbs and seasoning ingredients using what I had on hand:

Italian Parsley
Dried, Ground Coriander
Zest of 1 Lemon and 1/2 Orange
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
  • To begin, I removed the inner parts from the chicken, rinsed the entire body in cold water, and patted it dry with paper towels.
  • Next, I roughly chopped two fresh garlic cloves, and about a 1/4 cup worth of the Italian parsley.
  • Then I made a paste by placing the garlic, parsley and about 1 tsp kosher salt into a mortar and pestle, and grinding into a coarse paste. To this paste I added the lemon and orange zest, 1/2 tsp of ground coriander, 1/4 - 1/2 tsp black pepper, and about 1 Tbspn olive oil. I gave that mixture a few more rounds of light mashing to incorporate the mix.

  • I sprinkled a bit of kosher salt and black pepper inside the cavity of the chicken, and began the process of seasoning the rest of the chicken. Starting from the back, leg end, I separated the skin from the meat in one small area on each each breast, and then worked my fingers in between the skin and meat from the bottom of the breast on both sides of the chicken; making sure not to separate the skin and meat along the midline of the breast or tear the skin. The idea here was to create two pockets under the skin to pack the herb paste into. While I was creating the pockets in the breast, I also carefully worked a small opening and pocket in each side going into the thighs and legs.

  • I worked my paste into the pockets under the skin, placing a small amount of paste under the skin and then massaging the outside of the skin to distribute the paste all around the breast and over into the leg pockets, using all of my paste.

  • Lastly, I finished the prep by placing a small handful of Italian parsley and a few lemon wedges into the main cavity of the chicken, then closing the cavity by crossing the legs and securing by placing the ends through small holes I had cut in the flaps of skin that hang from each side of the bottom/tail area of the body. I rubbed 1/2 - 1 Tbspn of olive oil all over the outside of the chicken and sprinkled it with salt.

I placed the chicken into a 10" skillet, breast-side up, securing the wings in place by twist them forward and down, locking them around the upper end of the wing. I placed a temperature probe into the deepest part of the breast, not touching any bone, and then placed the pan in the oven on a middle rack. The temperature probe is essential here, as it allows you to monitor the internal temp without guessing, opening the oven to check, or having to cut into the meat and check the color of the juices.

The skillet went into my preheated oven at 450 degrees F. After 20 minutes, I poured 1/2 cup of water into the pan, and continued cooking at 450 for about another 40 - 50 minutes, until my temperature probe registered 165 degrees F. (I find 165 is sufficient, as the meat will continue to rise in temperate to 170 - 175 once removed from the oven, while resting 10 - 15 minutes in the hot pan. This time also allows the juices to redistribute within the meat.)

And basically, that was it..! The addition of green, herby notes and the brightness of the citrus and coriander, really gave this dish a lot of flavor. I served it with simple mashed sweet potatoes flavored with a bit of fresh ginger, brown sugar and salt & pepper.

While the initial prep on this dish seems difficult, it is pretty quick and easy once you've done it a few times, and can be adjusted for different flavors and tastes by mixing up different version of pastes using a wide range of herbs and seasonings to suit the season or side dish pairing.