Please take a minute to look at that damn fine roast chicken up there.
I recently made my Best Ever Roast Chicken and I feel a duty to tell you about it. We had it on Tuesday, and I was just blown away. The skin was super crispy; the meat was tender and moist* and flavorful. You roast potatoes along with the chicken, and they were magic. They had a good crispy edge and a lot of richness from the chicken fat and I tossed them with a bunch of fresh parsley which gave them a herbal kick. I stood at the stove after dinner eating leftover potatoes straight from the pan. The recipe calls it “chicken with mustard butter,” but it’s just as much about the herbs as the mustard.
It’s a combination of two recipes from Mindy Fox’s A Bird in the Oven and Then Some. I wrote about a different, also delicious, chicken recipe from this book back in 2011.
The snag? You have to take the raw chicken and wedge your hand up between the skin and the chicken flesh (judiciously cutting away the connective tissue if need be). Once you’ve maneuvered some space in there with your hand mushed underneath the chicken skin, you squeeze in a butter mixture with your fingers and then rub your hands over the surface of the chicken to spread it all out. So that’s gross. It becomes less gross the more you do it, much in the way of picking up dog poop with the plastic bag covering your hand, but it’s gross. I have come to believe there are no good alternatives.
On that note, let’s go! Best roast chicken ever!
Roasted Chicken with Mustard Butter and Potatoes
- 1 chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Cut it into small cubes to start. If it’s cold, you can treat it like butter in pie crust, and cut the ingredients together with two knives**)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I didn’t measure, I just used one shallot)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I didn’t really measure, and may have ended up with more sage)
- 1 lemon
- 1 - 2 pounds small to medium waxy potatoes, cut up into 3/4” or so sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A handful of parsley, chopped (maybe a 1/4 cup chopped? significantly more than a garnish)
Preheat the oven to 450˚ F with the rack in the middle. Put a roasting pan or 9 x 13” baking dish in the oven to heat up while you prep everything (10 minutes or so).
Make the mustard butter: Put the butter, shallot, mustard, and sage in a bowl. Zest the lemon into the bowl, close in so you capture the lemon oils that spray off as you zest. I often use a knife to cut the ingredients together until they’re fairly well mixed and finish mixing them together with a fork. Whatever works.
You can prepare the potatoes before your hands get raw chickeny if you want. Cut them up, toss them with olive oil, around 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper.
Now the chicken: with kitchen shears or your hands, pull or cut off the excess fat around the cavities of the chicken and discard. If the chicken has giblets, you should fish out the neck and freeze it to make stock (along with the carcass from the chicken you’re roasting). Again, gross, but you’re eating a dead bird. The instructions say to rinse the bird and pat dry, but that is ridiculous and we’re skipping it. Pat it dry if you want.
Next, verbatim from the recipe: “From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, then gently but thoroughly loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and thighs.
"Using your hands and working with about 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, gently push the mixture into the spaces you created between the chicken skin and meat, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work the mixture in, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and meat where you may not be able to reach with your hand."
So that was intimate. I sometimes use a knife or kitchen shears to cut the connective tissue between the skin and the meat.
Cut the lemon into quarters and pop one quarter into the chicken cavity. Save the others for later. Tie the chicken legs together with twine, although that step might be skippable. Season with salt and pepper.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven and toss in the potatoes, keeping them in one layer if you can and leaving room in the middle of the pan for the chicken. Add the chicken, breast side up.
Roast for 20 minutes, then turn chicken breast-side down and roast for another 20 minutes.
Take the chicken out and turn breast side up again. Squeeze the extra lemon slices over the chicken and then toss them in the pan. Continue cooking for another 20 - 30 minutes until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a fork.
In other words:
- 20 minutes breast side up
- 20 minutes breast side down
- Squeeze on lemon juice and toss in squeezed lemon slices
- Another 20 - 30 minutes breast side up
Toss the chopped parsley over the potatoes and mix a bit.
If you’ve never carved a whole chicken, here’s a nice video demonstrating the process. It’s the same as cutting up a raw chicken, and a pretty useful skill. Don’t forget to save the carcass for stock— just wrap it in tinfoil or a ziploc bag and freeze it.
* Moist felt less awkward than juicy in that situation. It was a judgement call.
** I tried to find a video or tutorial of cutting butter and flour together using two knives but didn’t find much. What I mean is you take your knives, one in each hand, pointed toward each other and slightly crossed in an x. You slice them away from each other so the bits of butter get cut up in between the knives. I should make a video of my mum doing this at some point.