Roast chicken is my comfort food. When I tire of fancy meals and need to sustain my simple inner self, I take a trip to the Fatted Calf in Napa’s Oxbow Market to buy a Soul Food Farm or Hoffman Ranch chicken. I can’t imagine a more perfect scene than spending a relaxed evening in a home filled with family and friends, the aromas of a well-roasted bird and a good bottle of red. Serves 4 to 6
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Cut off the tail of the chicken with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Remove the excess fat and giblets from the cavity. Cut away extra skin and fat from around the neck.
3. Combine the chopped herbs with ¼-cup of olive oil to make a loose mixture, season it with salt and pepper. Starting at the edge of the breast at the shoulders, gently separate the skin from the meat without poking holes in it. When you get to the halfway point, turn the hen 180 degrees and repeat the same maneuver starting at the point of the breast above the cavity and proceed to the top of the thighs and the legs. Rub the herbs into the pockets you’ve created covering as much meat as possible. The herbs needn’t be spread thickly; a little goes a long way, pat skin back into place. Tuck the wing tips under the shoulders of each bird.
4. Season the cavity of the bird with 2 teaspoons of salt. Stuff the cavity with the herbs sprigs, followed by the garlic cloves and then the onion half. Push them in as far as they will go. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. This may be done a day ahead of time and the bird allowed to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
5. Rub the skin of the bird with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Remember you have already seasoned the herbs under the skin. Place the bird in a roasting pan and put it in the preheated oven. Roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until juices run clear when a knife is poked into the leg and thigh. Let the bird rest for 15 minutes before cutting up. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat from the oven and the juices will settle. Carve the breast meat and cut off the thighs and legs to serve.
Note: If you are not in the mood to chop, simply roast the chicken without the herbs and liberally season the skin of the bird with salt and pepper. Come black truffle season, late fall and winter, a decadent yet simple preparation is to thinly slice black truffles and slide them under the skin in place of the herbs.
That fun chicken roaster from REVOL may be purchased from The Vineyard Kitchen Larder.