I was watching PBS a few days ago and Steven Raichlen came on with all of his beautiful clean grills. An informal poll of some friends revealed that Raichlen isn’t considered a sex symbol. I typically don’t go for guys who wear automatically darkening prescription glasses. But that episode, watching him prepare a raw chicken for grilling, really flipped my burgers. Cooking is a sensual act. But every step Raichlen took in making that chicken was done with such love and care, it was like reading a hot romance novel.
It started when he loosened the skin of the chicken with first one finger, then two, and finally slid all his fingers under the skin. Then he rubbed herbed butter between the skin and the flesh of the chicken and massaged it around. Before grilling, Raichlen made sure the grill was well lubricated with oil. You get the idea…or, maybe it’s just me? I’m okay with that, really.
In honor of Steven Raichlen, my recipe for Roasted Chicken:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
One lemon, quartered
One onion, quartered
1 tsp kosher salt, divided use
several grinds of black pepper
1 tbsp butter (Much less than Raichlen used, alas. It would appear that he is considerably more sensual than me.)
several sprigs fresh herbs (I like thyme, sage and tarragon)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly (Or gently, depending on personal preference)
one whole chicken
1. Pat your chicken dry with paper towels. Trim any extraneous hunks of skin. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp salt into the cavity. Grind some pepper into the cavity. Set aside your chicken.
2. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix softened butter, remaining salt, pepper to taste and 2-3 tbsp finely minced herbs. You should have some herbs left over. Set them aside with your onions and lemon wedges.
3. Gently (but insistently) loosen the skin from the breast of the chicken. Push your fingers under the skin as far as the thighs. Scoop up about half of the butter mixture and start pushing it under the chicken skin, spreading it all over the breast and thigh. Repeat with the remaining butter on the other breast and thigh.
4. Stuff the cavity loosely with the onion, lemon, garlic and remaining herbs. If you put too much stuff in the cavity, the chicken will cook too slowly, making it more likely that the breasts dry out while you’re waiting for the rest of the bird to become done enough to eat safely,
5. Place chicken on roasting pan. Don’t bother trussing the poor bird, it’s been through enough. Put it in the pre-heated oven, legs first. (The dark meat on the legs and thighs needs to cook to a higher temperature. Placing these parts toward the back of the oven, where reflected heat means a slightly higher temp, helps keep things cooking evenly.) Cook for approximately an hour. At this high temp, the skin will brown nicely but if you want to help it along, when you start checking the temperature of your roast with a thermometer, baste it with the drippings in the pan.
6. Important: check the temperature of your chicken. The breast should be 165 degrees. I take mine out of the oven as soon as it reads 160, as it continues to cook out of the oven. Second important thing: let the roast rest. Don’t ruin it after waiting so patiently! A 4-5 lb chicken needs to rest at least 10 minutes before carving. It will stay hot longer than that if you tent it loosely with foil.