classic roast chicken with garlic and thyme
If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably asking yourself right now “Wait, am I going crazy? Doesn’t Brooklyn Supper already have a roast chicken recipe? I thought we were just discussing that in my blog club the other day. That was, like, their second post. A classic.” Let me explain. You’re not going crazy. We do have a roast chicken recipe. That’s a very good memory you have there. It was actually our fifth post, but you were pretty close. We posted it all the way back in July of 2008, which was really a different time. Like people were already really annoying about bacon but they hadn’t gotten all weird about pumpkin pie spice yet.
In the intervening years, though, a few things happened that made us want to redo our roast chicken piece. First, our posts got a lot more concise, so while now I might mention that I first roasted chicken working at a rotisserie chicken joint, I would probably omit the jobs I held before that (janitor at an amusement park). Second, the recipes have a little more focus. Back then, I would say things like “Sometimes I put limes in the chicken, sometimes I don’t,” which I now recognize is not all that helpful for someone who is following the recipe and needs to know whether to put limes in the chicken or not and, if so, how many? Finally, Elizabeth has a much better camera now which allows her to take much more appetizing pictures and our roast chicken tastes really good and deserves to have a good picture.
So, we decided to take a mulligan on our roast chicken post. Roast chicken is one of our family’s favorites and we make it all the time and mastering it was what really set me on the road to being a good home cook. In the fall, especially, it’s a cozy dinner that works perfectly with hearty greens or cabbage or Brussels sprouts.
No matter how you serve it, start with a great chicken. Pastured chickens are far more flavorful than their factory farmed counterparts. The meat is more moist throughout, and has loads more flavor. In Brooklyn, we purchased our meats at the farmer’s market and at the (amazing) Meat Hook. Happily, here in Charlottesville, a couple of the Meat Hook butchers have set up right here in town and opened JM Stock Provisions + Supply. We’ve been getting our weekly meat there for a few weeks now, and have been incredibly impressed with the quality of their foods. A great butcher makes all the difference.
This roast chicken recipe is pretty simple, since it can be a great jumping off point for all kinds of dishes. The flavors at play here include garlic, thyme, butter, and soy sauce. We’ve had a bumper crop of hardneck garlic and around here it’s been elevated almost to vegetable status. Here, garlic imbues the chicken with a subtle smokiness. The thyme, butter, and soy are pretty standard, with the latter imparting a nice saltiness and brown hue to the crispy chicken skin.
Keep in mind that roast chicken lends itself to stock making, since you can use all of the discarded parts. You can also freeze the chicken parts in a labeled plastic bag and make a big batch of stock down the road.
Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Thyme
serves 4 – 6
Our recipe calls for fresh chicken. If you have a frozen bird, be sure to thaw it completely, as frozen flesh can really mess things up.
1 smallish fresh whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 head garlic, broken into cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons soy sauce
8 sprigs thyme
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Check the chicken cavity for a giblet bag (remove it and save contents for stock or pate). If your bird legs are untucked, cut a slit in the loose skin at the bottom of the breast and tuck the legs in there or tie them together with twine.
Set out your roasting pan with the rack in, or just make an 8 inch foil circle and set it in a 9 inch cake pan (that’s what we do). Set the chicken breast side up, and rub half the sea salt and pepper into the skin. Flip, and rub in the remaining sea salt and pepper. Let the bird sit on the counter for about 15 minutes, while the oven comes up to temperature.
Trim the ends off the garlic cloves and smash, leaving the papery skin in tact. Stuff the cavity with the garlic and 4 sprigs thyme.
Set the chicken back side up into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the soy sauce.
Remove the bird from the oven, brush the back with half the melted butter, flip so the bird is breast side up, and then brush on the remaining butter and sprinkle on 4 sprigs worth of thyme leaves.
Set breast side up bird in the oven and roast at 450 for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and continue roasting for 25 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the space where the between the thigh and the part of the breast where it begins to narrow to a point reads 165 degrees F. The meat of a well-cooked bird should be juicy and supple, but the meat should be opaque.
Rest the bird for 5 minutes, and then use poultry shears and a knife to break it up. Begin by cutting the through the middle of the breast, so that the bird opens up. Then cut both halves away from the spine (which you can either throw away or set aside for making stock later). Flip both halves over and cut the thigh away from the breast. Then gently bend the drumstick back to find the joint and cut through the joint to separate the drumstick from the thigh. Use the tip of the knife to find the joint where the wing meets the breast and do the same as you did with the drumstick. Then cut the wingtip off and discard or save for stock. Finally, if you like, you can cut the breasts in half or leave them whole.