There's something so deeply satisfying about roasting a chicken. It's a simple act that results in an impressive, dinner party-worthy meal that also feels so homey and comforting.
This roast chicken from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Everyday Dorie, is easy and classic, but she elevates it with a few special tricks to ensure it's extra special. She writes in the book: "You'll make this recipe once and then never look at it again," and she's right. It only takes one go to master her smart techniques, and they're so easy that you'll have them memorized for the next go-around.
A Slice of Stale Bread (and an Herby Compound Butter) Are the Secrets to the Best Roast Chicken
What makes Dorie's roast chicken so special is an herb-loaded compound butter and a slice of bread. First, she has you mix whatever herbs you have on hand (I used tarragon, parsley, and basil) with lemon zest, scallions, and butter. You'll think you have too many herbs for the amount of butter, but trust me — it works, so just keep mashing them together. You'll rub the mixture underneath the chicken skin and then stuff any leftover scraps — the herb stems and zested lemon — into the chicken's cavity.
Then, the chicken is propped up on a slice or two of stale bread in a Dutch oven. The high sides of the Dutch oven (as opposed to the lower sides of a shallow roasting pan) allows the chicken to basically baste itself. The bread keeps the chicken in place, and soaks up so much of the drippings that it's totally saturated by the end of the cook time. The bread might not be the prettiest thing to serve to friends, but it might just be the most delicious part of this entire recipe — so save it for yourself and polish it off in the kitchen.
Dorie Greenspan's Herb-Butter Chicken
(1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
About 1 cup loosely packed minced mixed fresh herbs (save the stems)
medium scallions, white and light green parts only (save the dark green parts), minced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 or 2
slices stale bread
whole chicken (about 4 pounds), at room temperature or close to it
tablespoons olive oil
small onion, sliced
white wine or water
1 to 2 teaspoons
sherry vinegar, for the pan sauce (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 450°F.
Finely grate the zest of the lemon into a small bowl (reserve the lemon). Toss in the butter, minced herbs and scallions, season with salt and pepper and mash the ingredients together until well blended. Divide the seasoned butter in half and wrap one piece tightly in plastic wrap; freeze for your next chicken or another use.
Pour the oil into a Dutch oven and swish it around so that it slicks the sides of the pot. Spread a little of the herb butter on one side of the bread, then place it buttered side up in the pot.
Buttering the chicken can be a little tricky, messy too, but there’s also something very satisfying about it. Use your fingers to pull the chicken skin away from the meat, loosening it along the breasts and drumsticks. Work from the top and bottom of the chicken, lifting the skin up with your knuckles to help you open up some space without tearing the skin. Using a chunky pat at time, squish, squiggle and otherwise schmush most of the remaining butter under the skin of the chicken, spread-ing it as best as you can against the meat. Don’t worry about getting an even layer — the butter will melt and baste all the meat in the oven. Pat the skin dry and smear whatever butter remains over it. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the cavity with the reserved herb stems and scallion greens. Squeeze the half lemon over the bird and tuck the lemon into the cavity.
Sit the chicken breast side up on the bread. Toss the onion and bay leaf into the pot, pour the wine or water around the chicken and slide the pot into the oven. Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes; if it looks as if the pan juices are running low, add some water. The chicken is done when a thermometer poked into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F. Alternatively, you can cut a slit in the chicken between the drumstick and breast and check that the juices run clear.
Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the pan juices and stir in some sherry vinegar, if you’d like.
Carve the chicken and serve with the pan juices and the jus-soaked bread (if you haven’t already finished it off in the kitchen).
Storage: Cover and refrigerate any leftovers and enjoy them over the course of the next 3 or 4 days.