One of the first and best (and most primal) things I learned to do in the kitchen was to roast a chicken. In high school, it was also one of the few experiences that my sister, Nicole, and I could share without a fight.
We’d push a few pats of butter under a chicken’s skin, stuff a bunch of fresh herbs in the cavity, and roast it in a hot oven until golden brown, by which time the smell drove us crazy. We’d devour it standing up, burning our fingers and tongues as we pulled at the hot, crackling skin, eating it right down to the nubbins.
- 1 2- to 4 1/2-pound chicken
- 2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 small bunch fresh herb sprigs (such as thyme, basil, parsley, or any combination)
- Kosher salt, to taste
Set the chicken in a 12-inch (or larger) cast-iron frying pan or a 5-quart (or larger) Dutch oven. Using your fingers, gently work 1 tablespoon of the butter under the breast skin, pushing the butter in as far as you can reach to the front of the breast and down the sides into the thighs. (Try not to tear the skin.) Rub the remaining butter all over the breast and leg skin on the outside. Put the bouquet of herbs in the body cavity and season the chicken all over with the salt.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Set the chicken on the countertop for 30 minutes or so to take the chill off before cooking. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 30 minutes before either inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh or cutting into a thigh with a paring knife. The thermometer should register 170 degrees. (If using a knife, look for clear, not red or pink, juices running from the spot where you pierced the meat and opaque, barely pink flesh at the bone.)
If the chicken isn’t done, roast for 5 or 10 minutes longer and check it again. When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before you carve and serve.