Friday, May 10, 2013

Thrifty & Easy Recipe: Lemon-Garlic Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Buying a whole chicken is far more economical than buying parts, and is a great way to stretch a tight food budget. It takes only a few minutes to cut up the bird, plus you have the option of cooking it whole.

True confession time: Until a few days ago, I had never attempted to roast a whole chicken. To my relief, it proved to be quite easy and the mouthwatering results were well worth the wait (it does take well over an hour to cook, and the bigger your bird, the longer it will take).  Although my first roast chicken wasn't as evenly browned or resplendently golden as those seen on cooking shows, "foodie blogs" and in professional photos, I am not ashamed to show a picture of it. It tasted just as good -- if not better -- than any roast chicken I've had before, and was proof that food need not be beautiful to taste good.

I hesitate to call the following a "recipe" because it's merely an accounting of how I went about roasting my first chicken using ingredients I happened to have on hand at the time. When it comes to making roast chicken, the flavor possibilities are almost limitless: You can use any kind of seasoning, dry rub, or savory blend of herbs and spices that you like. The same is true as to the vegetables:  If you can roast it and enjoy eating it, feel free to use it. And instead of placing garlic cloves and lemon slices in the chicken's cavity, you can put fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs, thinly sliced orange, fresh chopped chives or sage, or virtually anything else or even nothing at all other than a sprinkling of your dry seasonings. Let your palate, imagination and ingredients on hand be your guides.

Because I was cooking only for Greg and me, a smallish chicken was sufficient to feed us and provide some leftovers for salads or sandwiches. If roasting a larger chicken, you may need to cook it longer -- use a good meat thermometer to let you know when it's done (thigh temperature reaches 180°F and the juices run clear). If the breast is done before the rest of the bird, cover the breast with a piece of foil to prevent over-browning or drying out.

Jim's Own Safari Rub
Safari Rub
1 chicken (I used a broiler/fryer that was almost 3 lbs)
10 to 15 garlic cloves
Half a lemon, thinly sliced & seeds removed
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1/2" chunks
1 small rutabaga, peeled & cut into small chunks
Up to 1/4 cup white wine
Jim's Own Safari Rub or other seasoning or rub of your choice
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove giblets packet from inside the chicken cavity and save for another use (I freeze until I have enough for making dirty rice or fried giblets). Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place in a roasting pan, breast side up with the wing tips tucked under the bird if possible. Spread the lemon slices and garlic cloves inside the chicken. Some recipes call for tying the ends of the drumsticks together with kitchen twine, but I didn't do this. Pour the melted butter over the entire bird (you may need more melted butter for larger chickens), then sprinkle generously with the Safari Rub to coat the whole chicken (I used about half of the packet of rub).

Ready for the oven
Pour a little wine into the roasting pan around the chicken (just enough to cover the bottom) then place the chopped carrots and rutabaga around the chicken and sprinkle the vegetables with a little more of the rub.

Place in oven and roast until the internal thigh temperature reaches 180°F and the juices run clear -- this took about 1 hr 45 mins for my chicken, and larger birds will take longer.

Almost done
When the chicken is done, remove from oven and transfer the chicken onto a plate or platter and cover with foil while it rests -- this will ensure that your chicken is juicy.

Raise the oven temperature to 400°F (or 425°F depending on how tender the vegetables are), return the roasting pan with the vegetables to the oven and roast an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender to taste.  Serve vegetables along with the chicken, and refrigerate any leftovers.

How do you like to roast chicken? Tell us in a comment below.

Zestfully yours,

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