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Herb Infused Roasted Chicken
By Charlie Burke

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We have previously done a traditional recipe for roasted chicken in this column.
That is the preparation I usually follow, and the results are reliably moist and
flavorful.

However, in late summer our herbs are at their peak, so I decided to make an
intensely flavored oil to be spread under the skin of two naturally raised
chickens. Weighing just over three pounds, they were the ideal size for roasting.

Many recipes spread herbs and flavorings on the skin, but these do not
penetrate the meat. When herb flavored olive oil is rubbed directly onto the
meat, however, it richly flavors it and forms another layer beneath the skin to
help preserve moisture during high temperature roasting.

I like the classic combination or fresh sage, rosemary and thyme with chicken,
but this method permits the use of the cook’s favorite flavors. Adding garlic or
lemon zest would certainly work, as would using marjoram or tarragon. One
memorable roasted chicken recipe I did follow was from Japer White who used
oil-infused with Chinese Five Spices. Not only was the chicken delicious, but
also the stock made from the carcass made a wonderful oriental style soup.

It takes only minutes to prepare the oil and to spread it under the skin, but this
extra effort results in moist chicken, fragrant with the scent of the herbs. I usually
roast two chickens, using leftover meat for other meals and sandwiches or for
soup made with the stock from the bones.

For two – four servings:

1 2 ½ - 3 pound chicken, preferably raised locally and free range (if unavailable,
look for “naturally raised” chickens with no added chemical solutions or use a
kosher chicken)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup coarsely chopped sage leaves
¼ cup fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt (omit salt if you are using a kosher chicken)

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the chicken well and then pat the cavities
and skin with paper towels to dry. Place the oil, herbs, salt and pepper into a
blender and process for 30 seconds.

Lift the skin adjacent to the wings and the legs in the front and the back. While
pushing gently on the meat, develop cavities in the spaces between the breasts
and the legs and wings, then move upward, lifting the skin away from the breast
meat. Loose connective tissue is easily divided, and by pressing down on the
meat there is less chance of tearing the skin. Free as much of the skin as possible,
then add the infused oil, a teaspoon at a time to the spaces, working it into the
cavities between the legs and wings and spreading it evenly over the breast
meat. Add some of the oil to the large cavity and distribute the remaining oil
over the breasts.

Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and place it into the oven with the
legs facing to the rear. Roasting time will be approximately 45 – 60 minutes,
depending upon the size of the chicken and the temperature of the oven. (Oven
temperatures often vary significantly from the setting, so it is always a good
idea to check them with an oven thermometer.) The chicken is done when a meat
thermometer placed into the thick meat near the thigh joint registers 175 - 180
degrees.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board or platter and let it rest for at least 10
minutes before carving to let the juices distribute and the internal temperature
to increase from retained heat. Pour off the fat from the roasting pan and place it
over medium heat; add a cup of water, chicken stock or white wine. Bring the
liquid to a boil while scraping up the browned fond from the pan. If you are
using wine, boil it until the alcohol has boiled off .To serve, carve the chicken
and pour the reserved juices over the meat.

When cooking your next chicken, try placing the flavorings under the skin.
Developing the spaces under the skin is easily done and the herbs add great
flavor to the chicken, while the film of oil over the meat ensures moist results.
Perfectly roasted chicken is the sign of a good cook, and this preparation is as
appropriate for a family dinner as it is for entertaining dinner guests.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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