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Roast a whole chicken Vary the theme and flavor of the meal with creative spice combinations

Posted by Kim Davaz • 04/18/12 • 2:01am

Blog entry photo

Carl Davaz

Try roasting a chicken with baby potatoes, onions and a squeeze of lemon over the top.

One of the best ready-to-eat foods available at the grocery store is the whole roasted chicken. Bring one home and you have - depending on how many you'll be serving - a meal plus leftovers.

Buying or roasting a whole chicken works best when you have people who will eat every part of a chicken. If you are serving only white-meat eaters, then a whole chicken is not the way to go.

Even though a store-roasted chicken is so easy, roasting your own gives you the option of choosing your own flavorings.

There are so many possibilities because chicken takes to a wide variety of flavorings. You can go Eastern European with paprika and caraway; Southwestern with cumin, garlic, oregano and ground chilies or a barbecue rub; Asian with garlic, ginger and sliced scallions; Greek with lemon, garlic and oregano; or Indian with curry. That's just the beginning. Of course, there's always just a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Whichever you choose, season the chicken generously inside and out for the best flavor.

The amount of time the chicken takes to cook depends on many factors: whether or not you've stuffed the bird (onions, celery, lemon); how cold the bird is (Are there ice crystals still inside it? Did you have to really work to remove frozen giblets?); and the bird's size. One-and-a-half hours at 425 degrees works for a refrigerator-cold bird between 41/2 and 5 pounds.

Cutting the chicken into serving pieces in the kitchen is a lot less nerve-racking than doing it in front of an audience in the dining room. Plus, if you cut the breasts off the bone and then cut them into several pieces, there will be more to go around.

To cut the roasted chicken into serving pieces, you need a very sharp knife. You'll be amazed at how simple a thing as having a very sharp knife will make your life easier.

Grab one of the legs and push it away from the body of the chicken so the knee of the chicken is laying against the cutting board. Cut through the skin if it doesn't break on its own. As you push it down against the cutting board, the thigh joint should be exposed and, if the chicken is really done, should pop off.

If not, cut through the joint. Holding the chicken leg so the piece looks like a 'V,' cut through the joint between the leg and thigh at the bottom of the V. You may need to wiggle the knife to find the joint. Repeat with the other leg and thigh.

Push a wing away from the breast. Cut through the joint that attaches it to the breast. Repeat with the other wing.

Feel where the breast bone lies at the top of the chicken. Cut down one side of the bone, then continue cutting with the blade against and following the rib bones until the breast releases. Repeat with the other side. Cut the breast into three or four crosswise slices.

Arrange chicken on a serving platter.

If you have leftovers or if you've bought the chicken purposely to make several meals, the drier white meat works best if it doesn't have to be reheated. The breast is good thinly sliced for sandwiches or cubed for chicken salad.

The fattier dark meat legs and thighs can stand up to reheating. Shred the meat and mix with barbecue sauce for sandwiches or pizza. Chop or shred for tacos, to mix with curry sauce to serve over rice, or to add to noodles cooked in chicken broth for your own chicken and noodle soup.

Save the carcass, freezing it in a zip-close freezer bag until you're ready to make stock.

Chicken doesn't keep forever in the refrigerator. I discard any leftovers two days after cooking.

Roast Chicken

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium peeled onions, in ½-inch crosswise slices
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4½ pounds
  • 1 tablespoon plus more if needed melted butter or olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Dried or fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ of a lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic, unpeeled and smashed, plus two cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in 3-inch lengths

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a shallow baking pan with olive oil. Arrange onion slices close together in the center of the pan.

Place chicken on top of the onions. Drizzle chicken with butter or olive oil. Season well inside and out with salt, pepper and thyme.

Squeeze the lemon over the top of the chicken, then tuck it inside the cavity with a bay leaf and the smashed clove of garlic.

Surround the chicken with baby potatoes, the celery and unpeeled garlic.

Place in oven and roast for about 1? hours, or until the leg joint wiggles easily and the juice runs clear if you poke a knife in the thigh joint. Remove chicken to a serving platter and let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Kim Davaz of Eugene writes the biweekly Eating In column.

Blog entry photo

Carl Davaz



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