Made another one of my favorite meals last night: Roast Chicken with potatoes and carrots. This version produces a beautifully browned chicken with crispy skin while also providing very juicy breast meat and nicely flavored potatoes and carrots.
The key to this recipe is rotating the chicken in the oven so that it cooks and browns evenly and then letting it rest to collect the juices. And also butter.
1. You heat the oven to 450 F. Get a 4-5 pound whole fryer with the giblets and such removed. (Heavier is better and I've found that organic chickens have a richer flavor.) Then you melt a tablespoon or two of butter and massage it into the skin of the chicken. You can use a brush if you're afraid to get your hands greasy.
2. Chop up half an onion into a few big chunks and cut some rosemary or sage (last night I used sage from our garden) and stuff both into the cavity of the chicken.
3. Put the chicken on its side in a roasting pan and put the pan in the oven for 30 minutes.
4. Slice some small red potatoes in half (bigger potatoes may need to be quartered--I don't like mine more than an inch in thickness) and chop some carrots (or use baby carrots).
5. After the first 30 minutes, take the pan out of the oven. Turn the chicken over onto the opposite side. Baste it (I use a brush) with pan juices and some more of the melted butter. Then add the potatoes and carrots and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
6. After the second 30 minutes is up, turn the chicken breast side up in the pan. Baste it again and stir up the potatoes and carrots. Set the timer for 10 minutes. At the end of that ten minutes, baste again and set timer for another 10 minutes. At the end of that 10 minutes, check to see how done the chicken is--wiggling the leg to see if it is nice and loose works pretty well. You may or may not need a final 10 minutes in the oven (A 4 pound chicken is usually done after two 10 minute sessions, while a 5 pounder often takes 3 10 minute sessions.)
7. Take the chicken out of the oven. Leave the potatoes and carrots in for another 20 minutes. During this final 20 minutes, you need to put the chicken breast side down on a cutting board and tent it with foil to help keep it warm. Angle the chicken so that the back end is higher than the front. This lets the juices in the chicken drip down and infuse the breast meat, which can often get a little dry during normal roasting because it takes a bit longer for the dark meat to cook than the white meat. (Warning: you want a cutting board or surface with grooves in it to catch the chicken fat and juices that drain down, otherwise you'll have a very messy counter.
8. After the last 20 minutes, take the potatoes and carrots out of the oven. Turn the chicken right side up and carve it. Serve with the carrots and potatoes.
For our family this meal always produces leftovers that are very tasty a couple days later.