Confession time. There was a time of great immaturity in my life when I couldn't bear to eat chicken on the bone, let alone touch a big whole chicken and cook it in my kitchen. But as my kitchenary skills have grown ("culinary" sounds entirely too fancy), so has my ability to man-handle a whole chicken. And let me tell you, this is some good chicken now.
In my early 20s, I used to buy canned chicken. Yes, I said it. Canned. Chicken. Which, by the way, is so expensive that I never should've purchased it ever. Then I graduated to boiling chicken breasts in water...which seized up and were like flavorless rubber. After a cooking class in Savannah with Chef Darin Sehnert, I leaned that properly boiling a chicken breast meant actually not boiling it at all, but rather bringing it to a boil in deliciously flavored water, then reducing it quickly to a simmer and letting it cook slow and low until it fell apart trying to move it from the pot to a plate. Since then, I have put on my big-girl panties and worked with real whole birds. The meat is so tender and flavorful that y'all won't believe it. It's actually hard for me to do anything else with chicken now that I know differently.
So today I'm going to give you a roasted chicken how-to followed tomorrow by a simmered chicken how-to that actually yields not only tender, mouth-watering chicken, but also the richest, most flavorful homemade chicken stock that is the base for about a zillion soups and dishes.You can do this, folks. And believe me, once you've had good chicken and homemade stock, you will too have a hard time buying boxed stock and canned chicken. (insert the heebies)
A little DID YOU KNOW...Did you know that the average price of a boneless chicken breast is $3.60 per pound but the average price of a whole chicken is $1.10 per pound? And the average price for canned chunk chicken packed in water is $4.50 per pound!
THEEENNN, over the next several weeks, I'm going to share some of my favorite comfort foods that incorporate this yummy pulled chicken and the rich homemade stock including Chicken'n Dumplins, Chicken Pot Pie (two ways), Chicken Noodle Soup, and more.
So here we go with an oven-roasted whole chicken. Very little hands-on time. Very fresh with no preservatives or scary stuff. Such flavor! And you'll give yourself enormous kitchen kudos for having made it yourself.
EASY OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature for one hour
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2, 4-to-5 pound chickens, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup dry white wine (I use a Pinot Grigio)
Mash the butter, zest, juice, garlic, thyme, paprika, 2 tsp salt and 1 tablespoon pepper together in a bowl and stir until combined. Put the chickens on a rimmed baking sheet. Loosen the skin on the breasts and legs by carefully running your hand between the skin and the meat, gently separating the fibrous thingies. Rub about 3/4 of the butter under the skin all over the breasts and inside the skin. Then rub the remaining butter mixture all over the outside of the chickens. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 2 hours or up to 8 hours before roasting allowing the flavored butter mixture to marinate the meat and skin. If you skip this step, the chicken will not soak in the lemon, garlic, thyme and other flavors like it should!
Just before roasting in a preheated 400 degree oven, remove the chickens from the refrigerator and pour the cup of white wine in the bottom of the rimmed baking sheet all around the bottom of the chickens. Carefully transfer to the oven and roast until the chicken are golden and crisp and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees - about 1 hour, 50 minutes. You may tent with foil if the skin browns too quickly.
Let the chickens rest 10 minutes before either portioning into breasts, legs, wings, thighs and serving with traditional side items, salad and bread. OR pull and shred the meat with two forks for soups, casseroles, enchiladas and more. Store pulled/shredded meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator.