So I will admit something… I had never attempted a roast chicken until Prince Harry got engaged. To be honest, I was intimidated. The size of it, the inside being in a bag (or not), would it fit in my Mini Smart Oven… (we use our standard oven for storage). When I saw the Meghan Markle, Prince Harry interview and the subsequent “Engagement Roast Chicken” posts that followed, I figured if she could do it I could do it. The idea of the two of them in his cottage cooking a roast chicken together and then him getting on one knee proposing to her (hopefully after she washed her hands) was too much for me to ignore. And I think it’s safe to say, I’m not alone in this.
But which recipe would I use? How would I even begin to take on a whole bird? I hadn’t even cooked a turkey! I purchased a small five and a half pound chicken and it came in a nicely sealed package which then burst open with disgusting juices. Everywhere. All over my counter. More horrific mistakes occurred which I will stop myself from admitting now and just say: onwards and upwards! I refused to be made a fool of by a chicken.
Practice does indeed make perfect (and less messes) and I have made since, countless roast chickens. I finally perfected my recipe and will share it with you now. This could not be more fool-proof, juicy or easy. I’m already married but I’m pretty sure this bird would have gotten me engaged. I’ve asked as much and have been assured yes by my husband – nodding enthusiastically, mouth full of food.
You will need:
- A chicken (based on how brave you are or if you are cooking in a smart oven or conventional, I would go with six pounds or under)
- Two oranges
- One lemon
- Olive oil
- Basil (dried)
- Grated parmesan
- Artichoke hearts (canned, quartered is better)
- Lettuce (I prefer butter lettuce, bagged)
- Avocado (as many as your family likes in a salad)
- Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- Strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- Kitchen shears / Sharp knife
The reason I like a six pound or under bird is because I spatchcock the chicken which loses just a little meat but keeps enough to feed plenty of people, and buying under six pounds means less cooking time. The basic rule is 20 mins per pound, with an additional 15 minutes for a darker skin. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First thing you need to do is clear your sink and make sure it’s clean. I have heard conflicting views on this however, I would rather any chicken juices to be in my sink than on my counter or accidentally splashing on a drawer handle and my not knowing. I leave the chicken in the grocery bag and try my hardest to do everything in that bag that I need to before moving the bird to the counter. Before I even open the chicken’s protective outer layer, I put on gloves. I get out a bowl and put in olive oil and my spices – smoked sea salt, black pepper and rosemary. I use a LOT. I get my pastry brush ready (however, it’s not really needed. You can just use your gloved hand or even a spoon). Next, I get the citrus ready. I like to save the zest of whatever I am juicing. I zest the oranges and the lemon and put the zest in a tupperware container and put the juices with the spices in the one bowl with the olive oil. I stir it with my pastry brush. The oranges and lemon are ready to be cut. Go ahead and cut them all into quarters. Put all the pieces on the tray you’ll be cooking the chicken in. I use a baking tray that came with my Breville oven which has about an inch or so on all sides to catch any juices and the chicken fits perfectly inside it. You will be placing the bird over the cut citrus after you spatchcock it.
Now, go to the chicken still in the grocery bag in your sink. Cut open the outside bag the chicken was sold in and remove the bag inside the bird. It’s disgusting but it’ll be even more so if you forget to. Take kitchen shears and cut the back bone. Then, press down on the bird with your palm. Hard. You’ll hear a snap and the chicken will flatten considerably. Take it and flip it upside down (so you can see the inside) and trim off anything you deem unappetizing. Lift up the bird and place it over the fruit in your cooking tray. Then take your pastry brush and paint the inside of the bird as much as you can with the olive oil, citrus and spice mix. Sure you can use butter but, I did find the olive oil just tasted more robust. Try it both ways, see what you think.
Flip the bird over and you will place it again over the fruit you have lined the bottom of your pan with. Adjust the oranges and lemon so there are as many underneath the chicken as you can get. This will help perfume the meat. Season this side of the meat as well, moving the wings and getting oil and seasoning everywhere. Use all the oil and seasoning. You will see a run off into the bottom of the tray but that too will perfume the meat.
It will look like this as you go to stick it in the oven:
If you’re anything like I am and want a pretty, brown crispy skin, preheat the oven to 450 and bake the chicken first for 15 minutes. This will help achieve that skin you’re looking for. Then reduce the heat to 350 cooking 20 minutes for every pound (calculate the sell pound and not what you think the chicken was reduced to after cutting the backbone out. Example: 5.5 lb bird would be cooked first for 15 mins on 450 and then 5.5 x 20 mins = 110 mins).
So, you have a kitchen sink with some carcass remains in it you need to dispose of, do that just after throwing your other items you touched into the sink to be cleaned. Put your gloves in the bag and close it tightly. Always wash your hands thoroughly. Also clean the handle of your oven; people forget to do that and it drives me crazy. Clean your workspace and get started on the salad and dressing.
This is a ridiculously easy salad. In fact, this is another meal that really cooks itself. You have done the bare minimim aside from if you were not cutting the chicken, and the oven is cooking it. You got canned artichoke hearts, lettuce and fruit. Take your fruit and wash it quickly if it’s fresh, otherwise, dump the frozen fruit into a sauce pan, not a sautee pan. You need something with some depth so you can build a sauce. I eyeball how much fruit I want. Typically, I would make more than needed as this sauce goes with everything from meat to salad to pancakes, really.
Turn the heat up and as soon as you see the fruit bubbling, start to smoosh it with the back of a wooden spoon or any flat utensil. The juices will burst out and you’ll get a chunky consistency that you’ll see start to turn into a sauce. At this point, reduce the heat a bit and add honey and olive oil.
While that continues to cook, get out a bowl and put in your lettuce, cut your avocado, add your basil (I used dry, it’s easier) and your grated parmesan. I like to marinate my artichoke hearts, I think it adds another layer of flavor to them. I find it the easiest to do in a Chinese food delivery container that once had soup in it. I drain the hearts and either throw them directly into the container or I use another pair of sheers or a knife and I cut them into smaller pieces. Regardless, they will all end up in the container with olive oil, basil and cheese. Shake the container and let sit a while.
You can really just relax and your job is done. It was that simple. All you need to do now is continue to move around the fruit in the pot on medium / medium low and continue to smash the berries to render the juice. I don’t like hot dressing and I don’t like the berries in my dressing either, so I take it off the heat and use the same colander I did earlier for the artichokes, over a bowl to catch all the juice. My husband likes the macerated berries so I save them for him in a container. Right before serving, I will put the juices in a serving container so we can put the amount we’d like on our chicken and / or salad ourselves.
So, you are now just waiting on the chicken to finish.
When the oven alerts you that it’s done, take it out and let it rest for a few minutes. Check the temperature (just make sure you don’t touch bone) and it should read at least 180 degrees. You definitely cooked it long enough using the 20 mins per pound method and the additional 15 at 450 however, some people like to make sure and I am no exception.
At this point, you can cut the roast chicken and place it in the salad. You can cut it and put it on a serving platter or, you can just leave it as it is with a knife and fork for people to cut their servings themselves which is what I did here. Toss everything in your salad bowl with the artichoke hearts that have been sufficiently marinated. As many hearts as you’d like. The dressing can be put in a smaller bowl to the side.
I have never found a better roast chicken recipe, honestly. I’m not biased to my own recipes however, this one really really beats any others I have tried. The chicken turns out juicy and flavorful with the rosemary and orange coming through beautifully. The color on the bird is perfect. The salad is a creamy accompaniment and the berry dressing with olive oil and honey works so well with the citrus in the meat and the flavors in the salad.
All the years I have wasted not eating this! Don’t be afraid of new things, I’ve learned. It just takes a bit of guts and I guess also, someone else’s engagement.