Monday, May 24, 2010

Orange Thyme Roasted Chicken

So, my boyfriend and I were thinking of what to make for dinner tonight, and as usual, I started scanning the weekly supermarket ads to see what was on sale.  I noticed that whole chickens were buy-one-get-one, and I remembered that I had never made a whole roasted chicken before, despite that being one of my favorite childhood dinners, and instantly resolved to roast a chicken for dinner.

As a child, my mother would make amazing whole-roasted chickens surrounded by potatoes and carrots, essentially a whole meal in one pan.  I decided I would kick it up a notch.  After searching far and wide on the world wide web, I integrated several recipes to come up with something I thought would be easy, inexpensive, and delicious: Roasted chicken with a compound butter of orange and thyme.  The result: the richest flavored, most succulent chicken I've ever had in my life.  Seriously, folks, the chicken barely made it to the dinner plate, because my boyfriend couldn't keep out of it while he was carving it up for us (and I may have had a few bites myself).

The recipe is ridiculously simple, and equally as inexpensive.  I think the entire cost for the meal was hovering around $10 including a side dish, and that includes a potted thyme plant because my grocery store didn't carry any fresh herbs.

1 whole roasting chicken (mine was a little less than 5 lbs)
1 orange
1/2 stick of butter
fresh herbs (I used about 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
1 sweet potato
1 large red potato
1 vidalia onion
salt and pepper
olive oil

First you'll want to make your compound butter.  Mix the half stick of butter with the zest of one orange and your fresh herbs, finely chopped.  If the butter is at or just below room temperature, this will be easy, but please don't microwave your butter to get it to the right temp.  You want the compound to be firm and not runny.

Once your compound is mixed, or while you're waiting for your butter to soften, prepare the chicken.  Rinse the chicken and discard the gross innards.  Bend the wings behind the bird so you have a nice base to work on and no wing tips sticking out - they will burn.  Now, with the breast facing up, work your fingers under the breast skin, separating the skin from the meat on each side from the leg end to the neck.  You will end up with two pockets, on each side of the breast bone.  You can use a spoon to separate the skin closer to the neck end if your fingers won't reach, but be careful not to puncture the skin.  Spoon one half of your compound butter under the skin on each side.  In this way, you will flavor the meat of the chicken instead of just the skin, and you will end up with incredibly moist white meat with an amazing flavor.  Massage the breast skin until the butter is evenly distributed under the skin.
Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the orange, halved, and the stems from the thyme that you used for the butter.  Truss the legs together to close the cavity, and place the chicken in a roasting pan.  Surround the chicken with the sweet potato, red potato, and onion, roughly chopped, and drizzle olive oil over the whole shebang.  Rub the oil into the chicken skin and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Pop in the oven at 350 degrees and cook for 20 minutes per pound... about 1 hour and 40 minutes for a 5 pound bird.

About 20 minutes before it's done, take the pan out of the oven and baste with pan drippings.  At this point, I made a glaze of orange juice, soy sauce, and honey, equal parts of each, and basted the chicken.  I increased the heat to 450 degrees and returned to the oven until the chicken was a dark golden brown.

That's it!  I can not emphasize enough how moist and flavorful this chicken was.  The skin was crispy and sweet, and the meat was moist and had a very distinct orange flavor.  The meal should serve at least four, but between my boyfriend and I, we took care of most of the bird and all of the vegetables.  There was enough meat leftover for sandwiches tomorrow, but just barely.  Once you make this, I promise, you will never roast chicken another way for as long as you live.