I am really, REALLY surprised by how many people have never roasted a whole chicken. Roast chicken is affordable, easy, versatile and could possibly be one of the most delicious dinners around. Maybe it’s that a whole bird is intimidating to people, but it really shouldn’t be, there are very few ways to mess this one up. Whether you are having company, or just serving up dinner for your family, this meal satisfies every time.
Keep an eye on meat specials at the grocery. I don’t know that I’ve ever spent more that $2/pound for a whole chicken. Anytime roasting hens are on sale at my local store (or on online when I go that route), I buy one and put it in the freezer. You can easily thaw a 7 pound bird overnight in the fridge, or submerged in lukewarm water in your sink for a couple of hours (keep the plastic on though).
One bird will easily give our family of four at least two meals. Leftovers can be used as anything from tacos to chicken salad to soup (keep the carcass to make stock when you’re done). All you really need is a chicken (get a good-sized “roaster” or “stuffer”), some kind of fat (olive oil, butter, even bacon drippings), and some seasoning. That’s it. I change it up depending upon what herbs and other things I have in the house.
Today I used Vidalia onions, lemon, grapefruit rind, rosemary, salt and pepper, and bacon fat! Don’t turn your nose up at that last part. Whether you use olive oil or animal fat doesn’t matter much in the health department when there’s no carbohydrate to soak it up, but it gives the skin an amazing color and imparts a little of the bacon’s smokey flavor as well. Feel free to substitute with other fats, or herbs and citrus as you like.
Whole Chicken Roasted with Citrus, Rosemary, Vidalia Onions and Bacon Fat
- 1 Roasting hen (approx 7 pounds)
- 1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons bacon fat
- 1/2 lemon, halved
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- Rind of 1 grapefruit in large pieces
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Rinse bird thoroughly in cool water and pat dry with a paper towel (it is very important that the chicken is very dry inside and out, or it will steam and not get as brown as you’d like it. If you have time to put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes, this will help dry it out)
- Layer most of the onion slices on the bottom of a roasting pan
- Season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper, and then stuff it with the remaining onion, lemon, grapefruit rind and rosemary (if you want to truss the chicken, you can, it’s not really necessary)
- Rub the entire outside of the chicken with the bacon fat, then season liberally with salt and pepper and then place on top of the onions in the roasting pan, breast side up
- Roast for about 2 hours and 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh
- Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving (for a good tutorial on carving a chicken – go here).
*As I said before, save the carcass for stock. If you don’t have time right away, just put it into a freezer bag and freeze it until you have a rainy day at home.