Herb Butter Roast Chicken

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, I thought it might be good to roast a bird to kind of get in the mood (a mood which I meant to post about a week ago–I think we’re all in the mood by now). The result: a whole, roasted chicken, seated atop some hearty vegetables and rubbed with some herbed butter.

Herb butter roast chicken fresh out of the oven

The Thanksgiving rationale isn’t quite 100% it though. My wife had complained that with me experimenting with new recipes all the time, we never get to have the dishes we already know and love, and somehow from that conversation, she wanted a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Seeing how that wouldn’t be a terribly exciting endeavor for me, we compromised and decided on this dish. This was also a great opportunity for me to finally try a recipe from one of Ramsay’s books, In The Heat Of The Kitchen, seeing how his method for scrambled eggs had won us over a while back (although I’ve never found creme fraiche, so I use a plop of goat cheese instead…mmm).

Anyways, before I aimlessly pursue those tangents any further, back to the roast chicken. This is a fairly easy dish that is hearty and surprisingly vibrant flavor-wise. You start with a bed of coarsely chopped, tasty veggies that will flavor the chicken (sweet carrots, creamy leeks, sharp garlic and shallots, peppery celery–you get the idea) and some really fragrant herbs (rosemary and thyme) to really bring it all together. Then, of course, the chicken which is resting in this mixture. The chicken is flavored pretty simply: the skin is loosened and then herbed butter is stuffed in between the skin and the flesh, both crisping the skin and flavoring the flesh. The chicken cavity is also handled simply with some cardamom and a lemon for some uplifting, fresh flavors. All together, you have a simple dish with easily identifiable flavors that all meld together really nicely. The duo of rosemary and thyme is also my reason for entering this in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Truffle from What’s on My Plate.

  • 1 chicken (4-5 lbs)
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 2 or 3 shallots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • handful of sprigs of thyme
  • a smaller handful of sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-6 cardamom pods
  • black pepper

Prepare the herbed butter

The first step is to prepare the herb butter. In a small bowl, mix the slightly warm butter with the chopped parsley and black pepper. This is a nice and simple way to get your hands all greasy right from the start. Set this aside.

Lay a bed of chopped veggies and herbs

Now, be sure to clean your leeks–just cut off and discard the root and the big green leaves. Split the pale green part and rinse out any sand in a bowl of water (there’s more than you think!). Then, coarsely chop this and all of your remaining veggies, spreading them out evenly in a roasting pan. Spread your fresh herbs on top of this as well. Take this time to preheat your oven to 375?F.

Buttered chicken in the oven

Now, Ramsay makes the point that you don’t want to cook the chicken entirely whole as is or else you’ll have a dry breast or undercooked leg meat, so before you start cooking, chop the legs off (cut the thigh-breast skin and dislocate the legs–they should pop eat easily and then be fairly easy to cut). You should cook them in a separate pan for a little longer (like 10-15 minutes) than the rest of your chicken.

At this point, you should loosen the skin a little bit, and get all of your herbed butter under it all over the chicken. Press on the skin from the outside to try to work it further along inside than your fingers can go. Then, cut your lemon in half and place the halves inside the chicken cavity along with your cardamom pods. Place your chicken on top of your veggies and get it all in the oven.

Carved chicken portions

Periodically baste the chicken with the juices that cook off to keep that breast moist and the skin crispy. Roasting the chicken should probably cost you roughly an hour’s worth of time in the oven, but it all depends no how big of a bird you’re working with. If you want to be sure, a meat thermometer can be a helpful thing–just plunge it in the thickest part so you get a good reading (the internet says you should get a reading of 180?F, but I’d say go a little lower, like 170, unless you like a dry bird).

When you take your prize out of the oven, let it sit for 10-15 minutes before you carve, so that it both cools some and so that the meat can absorb the juices again so that you can have a succulent piece of meat on your plate rather than dripping all over the cutting board.


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8 Responses to “Herb Butter Roast Chicken”

  1. Pam Says:

    I have never heard of cutting off the legs! Did it make a big difference?

  2. mike Says:

    I hadn’t heard of it before either, to be honest (and looking around online showed some people do this for the wings, too). Everything was nice and juicy, but its hard to judge whether the juiciness was the butter, basting, or the style of cooking, or all of them. I figured it was an easy enough extra step to take though and I was happy with the results, so I’d gladly do it again. *shrugs*

  3. Truffle Says:

    This looks wonderful! Thanks for contributing Mike!

  4. Laurie Constantino Says:

    Fascinating recipes. Like Pam, I’ve never heard of it before. Thanks for exposing me to this interesting technique. And the chicken looks like it tasted wonderful too!

  5. Kalyn Says:

    I’ve never heard of this method either, but it makes sense. I usually cook the chicken with the legs up for the first part of the time, helps keep the breast juicy. Hard to beat roast chicken wouldn’t you say?

  6. A scientist in the kitchen Says:

    Wow, the chicken looks juicy and mouthwatering. Hhhmmmm….

  7. mike Says:

    Truffle — thanks! Glad to participate

    Laurie — thanks! It was indeed a tasty one and was just what I needed prior to Thanksgiving (now, after Thanksgiving and many leftovers later, the last thing I need is more roasted bird…)

    Kalyn — ah, I hadn’t heard of that method either (legs up). Roast chicken definitely borders on being comfort food. All I need next is a rotisseries attachment on my grill, and I’ll be all set.

    Scientist — thanks! :-)

  8. Jo Says:

    Thanks Mike!!!

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