Sunday, May 17, 2009

Practically Perfect Oven Roasted Chicken with Herb Butter


I know what you are probably thinking: plain ol' chicken? Hmm. Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks. I like my meat with some flavor thankyouverymuch.

People of the internet, if you thought that, you would be seriously and sadly mistaken, and obviously, you also have never tasted a well roasted chicken before. If you had, you would never have uttered such blasphemy against chicken. Really. Because roasted chicken, in all its simplicity, is glorious. And this particular recipe is killer.


I think one of the most difficult adjustments to life at home with baby is the lack of structure inherent in my days. Work provides natural structure to life: working then playing, waking then sleeping, the rhythm of life is clearly defined by the demands of your job and the position of the sun. But when you have a newborn baby, all the boundaries disappear: working, not-working, sleeping, and waking begin to blend together into a mushy purple haze. Like suddenly, it's 5am and you stumble out of bed for the umpteenth time to feed the baby, snuggle down on the couch with him, and then suddenly you jolt awake (did I fall asleep during a feeding again?) and it's 6:30am, and the half drunk bottle of milk is mushed up against the sleeping baby's nose, and your boobs are aching and leaking like fountains because you missed your 5:30am pumping session. Where exactly was the sleeping/waking, working/not-working line there? I don't know, the line went AWOL a long time ago. It now seems perfectly normal to sleep in the middle of the day and run a load of laundry while watching Battlestar Galactica and feeding the baby at 4am.

Under such circumstances, you sort of have to cling to whatever structure you can make for yourself. You need something to distinguish night from day, and weekdays from weekend (because as as we have already established, motherhood is a job with no breaks, weekends, or vacations). For me, that means it's really important to do something different, anything different at all really, to make Saturday and Sunday special and different from the rest of the week.


One way to do this is make up a weekly chore routine: you know, Monday grocery shoping, Tuesday library, Friday laundry and farmer's market, etc. It's important to not allow myself to do "work" (ie: do the laundry and the housework) on Saturday or Sunday. It's important to go to church and the beach on the weekend. And finally, I think it's important to have Sunday night dinner. I like the idea of having a "big" family meal on Sunday night, a meal that is a little special, a little more fancy than usual. I just decided to institute this ritual this week because I am sick of the monotony and sameness of baby care, but I think it's a great tradition to have, regardless of whether you are currently enslaved to a newborn's needs or not.

I honestly can't think of a better dish to start this weekly tradition off with than this roasted chicken recipe. I have been making different versions of roasted chicken for years, but this one is hands down my favorite. It's so good that Nate (he is so gosh darn picky too!) who professes not to like chicken because it's "boring," spent most of last night gushing about how good this was. It's simple and elegant, bursting with flavor, and meltingly tender.


Practically Perfect Oven Roasted Chicken with Herb Butter
Adapted from Bon Appetit January 2001

Hi internet, I'm German. I have little square hands, a ridiculous amount of hair, and I cook with butter. As you make have noticed by now, this is not a low fat food blog. Yes, all my recipes have like, a million pounds of butter in them. But please chew on this little nugget: when I was pregnant my doctor made me meet with a nutritionist, and my nutritionist said butter is ok. Yes, you heard me right. BUTTER IS OK! Sure, butter is made of fat, but a) hydrogenated, trans-fat, high-fructose corn syrup, preservative laden junk food is much worse for you and you probably indulge in that occasionally and b) a little butter goes a long way to making you feel fuller faster, and it helps keep your blood sugar levels lower. So like, when I asked him if it was ok to have toast for breakfast, he literally told me "only if you have butter on it." YES.

So please enjoy this recipe in all it's herb butter glory, and if you start to feel a twinge of guilt about the butter, just remember: Beck's nutritionist said it's ok!

What do I need for this fabulous recipe?
1 roasting chicken 4-6 lbs
, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup butter
(1 stick, or 120g) softened but not melted
1 tablespoon fresh thyme + 3 large sprigs
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley + 3 large sprigs
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary + 3 small sprigs
kosher salt
cracked pepper

roasting pan and rack
cotton kitchen twine
meat thermometer

Amazing but optional gravy
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons thickening flour (all purpose flour, or gluten-free sweet rice flour or arrowroot starch)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and position rack in the lower third of the oven.

Here is a picture meant to represent all the things you should have for this recipe: See that bottle of wine? pretend it's a really a box of chicken stock. And pretend that little jar of coriander isn't there. I have this terrible habit of taking pictures of the wrong ingredients. Soooooory.

Get your herbs. Take 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, and 1 tablespoon parsley and chop finely.

Mix chopped herbs into butter, along with 1 pinch salt.

With your fingers, loose chicken skin. Slide your fingers under the skin starting from the neck side, and working your way to the legs.

With your fingers, spread 3 tablespoons of the herb butter mixture under the skin. Make sure it gets spread around over the breast meat and legs. Sprinkle outside of the skin with a pinck of kosher salt and some cracked pepper. Spread an additional 2 tablespoons of the herb butter on the outside of the skin, over the breasts and legs.

Stuff the cavity with the 3 sprigs thyme, 3 springs parsley, and 3 sprigs rosemary.

Tie the chicken's legs together with cotton kitchen twine, and tuck the wings under.

Place chicken on roasting pan.

Roast chicken in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and brush skin with herb butter. Roast chicken for 30 more minutes. Remove from oven, and brush skin with herb butter a second time. Replace chicken in oven, and roast until thigh meat registers 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven, and brush with herb butter. Let rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

Amazing but Optional Gravy

Tip chicken up to allow any juices from the cavity to drain into the roasting pan. Remove chicken and rack to a cutting board for carving. Set roasting pan over a burner on high heat, and add 1 cup chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, and scrape up any bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Strain into a sauce pan.

Add any left-over herb butter mixture to the sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons flour (sweet rice four, arrowroot starch, or corn starch if you are cooking gluten-free, all-purpose flour if you are not). Bring to a boil, and whisk vigorously until sauce comes together and thickens. Add more flour to thicken, or more stock to thin.



  1. Absolutely gorgeous. I'm drewling, admiring your photos. The chicken looks perfectly roasted with a crispy skin.

  2. I can't wait to try this! :)

  3. Totally making this for dinner tonight - except I may use my already prepared scampi butter - YUM!

    I agree, a good roasted chicken is something to behold! Beautiful pics - what kind of camera do you use?

  4. With a few slight variations, I've got this in the oven right now. It definitely looks & smells DELISH! Can't wait to taste it...

  5. This was a fantastic recipe, so simple, yet so delicious!!!

  6. In my 16 years of adulthood, and 6+ years of marriage, I've never roasted a whole chicken. I never felt like less than a real woman for having never done this, but today I certainly feel like I could give Betty Crocker a run for her money!! Thank you for a wonderful recipe that is easy as it sounds, and as delish as you promised!! Keep them coming. I'm so glad I found your blog!

    P.S. The gravy is not appropriately named. It shouldn't be optional.
    3 words: Fab. U. Lous.

  7. I tried this recipe tonight, for Christmas, and it came out PERFECT!
    Thank you for the recipe, and the gravy was also great as well! :D.
    Happy Holidays!

  8. I get the chicken butcher to quarter the whole bird, still using fav.
    basting herbs/butter- quicker to serve an eat.
    Keep up the great advice. Sydney Maria.

  9. I made this for my husband and it was a HUGE success! He especially loved the "not optional" gravy. The next day he requested a chicken manhattan with the leftovers. This recipe is a keeper. Thanks for posting!!

  10. the best roasted chicken and gravy I have ever had.

  11. now in oven and chicken looking good! cant wait to try! thanks for the wonderful recipe!!!

  12. Did this with excess dill from my garden! Yummy!

  13. I just made this for Thanksgiving - it turned out PERFECTLY, super moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe, and especially for all the very helpful pictures.

  14. I absolutely loved this when i made it a couple months ago but i used dry herbs except for the fresh parsley i had and it turned out amazing. today im going to buy fresh thyme and rosemary. and will make the gravy this time. cant wait. best recipe ever thank you!

  15. Lovely recipe! Great pics!I have yet to taste this recipe but how can it be bad ...butter, butter, butter! I added a homeade Jerk rub to add some Zip!

  16. Absolutly Perfect, your pictures, explanation, everything just looks amazing.

  17. A MAN WHO IS A SELF TAUGHT COOK:) soooooo good and im not a big fan of chicken but this is the second time i made this and not the last time ill make this if u dont try this u are missing out

  18. What a fantastic recipe you have here,it is very easy to make and everybody will love this recipe. I will be making this for sure, cant wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Paired with some mashed potatoes. Yum!

  20. This is the second time I have made this and it won't be the last. May just become our Sunday dinner tradition. It is excellent!!!! I do add a bit of garlic to the herb butter, but I put garlic in EVERYTHING! This is our Easter dinner this year, and maybe next year too. Home grown herbs make it extra special. :)

  21. I made this tonight for dinner and my hubby and 12 yr old son loved it! (I'm a vegetarian). I have always been a little worried when the skin would begin to brown, but left it alone this time and it was beautiful, hubby even took pictures to brag to his friends. Crispy on the outside and very juicy and tender inside. My only problem is that the legs were not done when the rest of the chicken was so after removing the breast meat, I returned it to the oven for a little longer. Definitely a keeper!

  22. I live in Hong Kong!!! Made this roast chicken tonight with an organic 4lb chicken from the USA and it was the BEST ever!! I will always roast my chicken this way from now on. Thanks so much!! My house was filled with the amazing herb aroma and the chicken was absolutely to die for!!

  23. It's in the oven right now!

  24. I have to share this with you, Becks. My family and I are venturing out of a vegan diet mainly because one of my sons has some brain functioning issues that I want to make sure is not diet related. He is 5+ years old, and has been absolutely mortified that we are eating meat and has refused for the past year. Well, tonight after taking this chicken out of the oven and giving a piece to my husband, he curiously came over to me at the stove. He said, ok, I'll try it. I mean, it smelled DELICIOUS. I gave him a piece of crispy skin calling it the "outside". He walked out of the room saying, "This is fantastic!" I couldn't believe what I just heard. Less than 5 minutes earlier he was saying to me, " What is that!!! WHy did you cook that? Did you have to kill it??? I AM NOT eating that!" He came back wanting more. I said, "Ok, but it's not all like that, there is the inside and you have to try that too." Yeah, he liked it. He exclaimed, "I like chicken now! Can you make this EVERY NIGHT!! I spent so many years hiding from liking this!"
    By the way, this was the first oven roasted chicken I have ever cooked (I've been vegetarian since 14) so I did feel like this was a victory in many ways. Thanks so much lady!

    1. I have my chicken in the oven right now. Smells fantastic! Can't wait to try eat. My husband is not a big fan of chicken (he calls it,yard bird) . He loves gravy, so surely going to make that also. Thanks for sharing.