I used to be terrified of cooking a whole bird. It is a little rough handling one for the first time after leaving behind a vegetarian diet of 4 years. But this recipe is not only easy, it’s fun to prepare (the aromas alone!) and comes out finger-lickin’ good.
The best part is the left-overs (LO’s in our house). At the end of the meal, all remaining meat is carved off the bone, and the carcass is simmered for an hour or two with a few spices. We use the stock and meat in the next day or two to make either Chicken Soup or Chicken Pot Pie (that’s this week’s choice). Heavenly first meal, sublime LO’s.
There’s three carnivores in our house right now. We typically get between 3 and 5 dinners out of one 4 lb. chicken, plus a lunch or two and the stock which feeds into several more meals. It’s proven to be a frugal choice for us, as a whole bird is already cheaper than buying parts, and it can be stretched and stretched.
The original recipe, from The Cast Iron Cookbook (Kramis + Hearne), specifies placing potato wedges under the bird. I tried this and honestly didn’t like it. It was easy, but the potatoes had no flavor of their own. I like mine separate with their own complementary goodness – more salty or crispy or something than the bird – not tasting like mushy, triangular mini-chickens.
I’ll include the potato instructions just in case you want to try it. You may have your own way of preparing them in the same pan which suits your tastes – I just haven’t found mine yet.
The recipe also calls for using a cast iron skillet. I love to cook that way, especially since I can move the bird to a plate just before dinner, and make gravy right in the hot skillet on the stovetop (did I say finger-lickin’ good yet?).
I think you’ll enjoy this chicken whether you make it in a glass dish or an iron skillet. It’s your choice. Just come to the table with an appetite!
Maple Balsamic Glazed Chicken
2 TBS fresh rosemary (about 5 sprigs), plus 5 more whole rosemary sprigs – if you don’t grow your own, it’s easy to find in the produce section at the market – 1 pckg is plenty
2 cloves garlic
1 lemon (grated zest, juice of 1 half, and the other half tucked inside the bird – no waste!)
1/4 C. olive oil
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. maple syrup
1 TBS lemon juice (I just squeeze it from one half of the whole lemon)
1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs
2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed + halved if small or quartered if large – only if desired
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. I like to preheat my iron skillet in the oven at the same time so it doesn’t get heat shock. Aren’t I nice?
Using a mortar and pestle (blender instructions to follow), crush together the 2 TBS rosemary, garlic, and lemon zest until they form a paste. Actually very fun and therapeutic! This…
…using only this:
…is one of the best smells that has ever wafted around my kitchen: fresh rosemary.
Place the paste in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Take a big whiff. It smells incredible.
Blender instructions if you don’t have a mortar and pestle or your wrist is broken:
Place the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, vinegar, maple syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until combined. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil.
Now comes the fun part, especially if you’ve never handled a wet, naked bird before. Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken (EEEEEEEeeeEW!), then rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry. (And people used to decapitate and pluck their own chickens?! I guess I can’t complain…) Rub the body and neck cavity with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, loosen the skin by gently moving your hand back and forth under it.
Rub the rosemary mixture under the skin over the breast, thighs, and drumsticks. Be generous! It will make Ol’ Clucky very moist! Insert the other half of the lemon and the remaining whole rosemary sprigs into the cavity.
I have a surprising lack of photos for this part, probably due to the raw chicken juices all over my hands. So here’s a picture of my Helper Chef:
If using potatoes, place them in the hot skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Then place the chicken, breast side up, on top. Just put it like that in a plain skillet if you’re not into potatoes.
Roast Clucky for 55-65 minutes for a 4 lb bird (plenty of time to get mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli, pilaf, asparagus, biscuits or what-have-you ready). Add 8 minutes for each additional pound of cluck.
After 20 minutes, baste with the pan juices. Yum. Repeat 20 minutes later. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching a bone, reads 170-175 degrees F (or 180 for fork-tender dark meat), and the juices run clear.
Remove the chicken from the pan and place it on foil or a plate to rest while you make gravy. This can be done by simply reducing the pan juices over medium heat on the stove top, or by adding a mixture of cornstarch and water. Use your own method.
Here lies Clucky, a bird who died, as my husband said, for a noble cause. Mmmmm….
For a picture-free, printable version of this recipe, please click on the following link: