Miriam and Chris are on a trip this weekend, so it is only Jan, Eilene and myself for Sunday dinner. I did not want to go to a great deal of effort, but I did not want to make a “blaa” weekday dinner either. A whole roasted chicken was just what was called for to go with my sweet potatoes and broccolini.
With very little in the way of chopping and preparation you can put a bird in the oven and walk away. A roasted chicken also lends itself to infinite variations—subtle changes in marinades, seasonings and roasting techniques can lead to completely different flavors. Today, I decided that I wanted to use some of my orange marmalade as the base of the marinade.
Karl’s Orange Butter Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs.)
3 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. . Karl’s Ultimate Micro Orange Marmalade with Meyer Lemon or commercial orange marmalade
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. sage
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. half and half cream
1 Tbs. white flour
1. Several hours before dinner, rinse and pat the bird dry. Separate the skin from the breast and thighs.
Tip: Lay the chicken on its back with the neck facing away from you. Slide your fingers under the skin at the back of the breast bone and spread your fingers apart. Try not to rip the skin any wider near the breast bone. Push your hand in further and repeat the finger spreading. Slide your fingers over the outside of the thighs. You should now have much of the skin separated from the meat on both sides of the bird.
2. Soften the butter and mix in the marmalade, thyme, sage, pepper, and salt.
Note: I am using my micro marmalade. If you are using a commercial marmalade, strain out the large chunks of peel with a course sieve and use only the orange jelly.
3. Smear half of the marinade under the skin over the breasts, thighs, and legs.
4. Smear the remaining marinade inside the cavity and over the skin of the chicken.
5. Fold the wingtips under the bird to hold the wings against the chicken.
Tip: Pull the first joint of the wing up and over the shoulder of the wing joint. This pins the wing to the side of the chicken without toothpicks.
6. Seal the cavity by sewing up the skin.
Tip: I usually pull the flaps of skin together and use 2-3 toothpicks to stitch them together.
7. Truss the legs with string.
Tip: Take a piece of string and tie it to one end of the leg. Wrap the string around the end of the other leg and draw them together. Tie the ends of the string together to hold the legs in place.
8. Put the bird on a plate and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least one hour.
Tip: This dries out the skin and allows it to crisp in the oven.
9. About two hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 400º F.
10. Lay the bird, breast side up, on a wire rack in a roasting pan and pour half a cup of water into the bottom of the pan.
Tip: Lining the roasting pan with aluminum foil is an ecologically suspect technique, but it makes cleanup easier.
Note: I do not have a wire rack that fits the pan I am using. I place several canning lid rings—the kind with removable tops— to hold the bird off the bottom of the pan.
11. Put the chicken in the oven, on the middle level, and roast for 15 minutes at 400º F.
Tip: If the skin on top of the chicken looks like it is going to burn, cover the top of the bird with a loose tent of aluminum foil.
12. Reduce the heat to 350º F and insert a constant read thermometer set to 163º F into the breast near the wing joint.
Tip: Whenever I under-cook a chicken, the under done spot is where the wing meets the breast. If you poke a hole here the juices should run clear with no pink. Roasting a whole chicken is always a delicate balance between the meat being moist and juicy and salmonella. Roasting the chicken to temperature should take about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.
Note: If the juices do not run clear you may leave it in the oven for another few minutes or transfer the chicken to a smaller plate and microwave the birds for two minutes to finish it off.
13. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover it with aluminum foil to rest for ten minutes.
Tip: The chicken will continue cooking and reach a safe internal temperature.
14. Strain the pan juices into a small pot and bring it to a boil.
Tip: A piece of cheese cloth in a fine meshed strainer will separate most of the floating chunks of coagulated chicken juices and some of the excess fat as well.
15. Mix the cream and flour into a smooth slurry and add it to the pot.
Tip: Drizzle the flour mixture into the pot in a thin stream, while stirring constantly, to prevent the thickener from turning into lumps.
16. Simmer the gravy for 4-5 minutes to thicken.
17. Serve the chicken whole—to carve at the table—with the gravy on the side.