As far as French cuisine goes, most days I’d choose cooking from the French countryside over fancy Parisian Michelin-star fare. I particularly love the culinary style of Provence, with its heavy reliance on aromatic herbs, lemon and fresh ingredients, and its rustic, no-fuss preparations.
One of my favorites to cook – and serve my family – is roasted chicken. It seems everyone has their own take on this classic, whether it’s a special flavor combination, stuffing idea, trussing technique, or preferred cooking temperature. I think I’ve tried about a dozen different variations, but I always go back to what works for me: simple.
My personal requisites for roasting chicken are these:
– Aromatic herbs (dried and/or fresh)
– Citrus (lemon, lime, and/or orange)
– Oil and/or butter
I don’t do trussing; I simply tuck the wings under the bird in front, and tie the legs together once I’ve added whatever stuffing ingredients I like. I usually quarter a lemon and stuff these pieces, along with a bay leaf, some fresh sprigs of rosemary, and a garlic clove inside the chicken, then tie the legs with kitchen twine.
I have done numerous variations of oils and butter, and I don’t think you can go wrong with whatever you choose. For simple and healthy, sometimes I use only olive oil. Other times, I crave a richer and juicier chicken and will go through the trouble of softening butter, slathering it over the skin as well as under (and sticking some herbs under the skin for extra flavoring). Occasionally I’ll do this buttering and coat it with olive oil to ensure it all browns nicely in the oven. I like to vary this part depending on what I’m craving and how much time I have to prepare it.
As for the seasoning on the outside of the bird, I love Herbes de Provence, and use it liberally along with salt and pepper. This herb mixture combines thyme, rosemary, sage, hints of lavender, and other herbs that flavor the chicken wonderfully.
An added bonus to roasting a chicken (or three) is that you can serve it warm for dinner one night, then chill it for salads or soup over the next few days. In summer, I try to roast a few chickens at once so I can cut down on using the oven but still have meals for the week.
Provençal Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 F (210 C). Pat the chicken dry outside and inside and place in roasting pan. Salt and pepper the inside and stuff ingredients of choice (lemon quarters, fresh herbs, bay leaf, garlic clove). Coat the outside of the chicken with softened butter and/or olive oil; insert butter between skin and breast meat too if preferred. Season the outside of the bird liberally with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence; tuck wings under front and tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place in the oven. Turn temp down to 375 F (190 C) after half an hour. At this point, try to baste the chicken, scooping up juices from the pan with baster or spoon and pouring over the top of the chicken, every 15 minutes. Cook until nicely browned and internal temp (check breast and thigh) measures at least 165 F (for a small 3-4 lb. bird, it should be an additional 45 minutes to an hour once you turn the temp to 375). Let the chicken rest 5-10 minutes; carve and serve.