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Dinner Diva: How to roast a whole chicken

the-dinner-divaFor many new chefs, roasting a whole chicken can be an intimidating task. But, really, there are few things that are as easy to pull off (or impressive) in the kitchen as a juicy roasted chicken.

The most important thing is to start with local organic free range poultry whenever possible. I always reach for smaller chickens because they need less time in the oven and they always come out juicier than their larger counterparts. I like a five-pound chicken, which is generally enough to feed a family of four (without leftovers).

When you bring your chicken home, store it in the fridge on a plate so that the juices don’t get all over your fridge. When it’s time to cook the chicken, bring it up to room temperature on the counter before putting it in the oven.

You may also choose to brine your chicken. To do this, you’ll need enough space in your fridge to place a covered pot containing the chicken and its brining liquid. A basic brine would be water (enough to completely submerge the bird), some olive oil, a handful of sea salt, some maple syrup and coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you eat soy,which I don’t recommend). For best brining results, leave the chicken in there for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Rinse and pat it dry before you put it in its roasting pan.

I like to rub my chickens with room-temperature butter, and I sprinkle it with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

When the chicken is placed in its pan—brined or not—, stuff the cavity with a halved lemon and whatever herbs you have on hand.

I like to roast the chicken in a cast iron pan or roasting pan (you can also use a regular old 11×9 inch pan if you don’t have a roasting pan) on a bed of root vegetables. Parsnips, carrots and beets are all wonderful under a roasting chicken. I also put lots of cloves of peeled garlic in there with the vegetables too.

Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen twine if you like a prettier presentation (I skip this step, personally) and pop it in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes per pound plus an additional 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165. For a crisp skin, start the bird at 450 for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature of the oven to 350 and continue cooking for 20 minutes per pound. If the skin starts to darken too much, put a foil tent on top to reduce the chances of the skin smoking on you!

When the chicken comes out of the oven, let it rest in its pan for ten or fifteen minutes so that the juices have a chance to distribute through the bird properly.

This is a basic recipe and it’s quite simple to master. There’s nothing like bringing a whole chicken to the table for the family to enjoy; it’s like a mini Thanksgiving! Try doing a whole bird for Sunday dinner this week and watch your family members’ faces when you bring that chicken to the table and carve it up in front of them — I’m going to bet each person at the table will have a big smile on their face!

More from Dinner Diva Leanne Ely at www.SavingDinner.com.

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