No-Fuss Whole Roasted Chicken--Finger Lickin' Good!

I was born and raised in the south where fried chicken is a staple, and when you hear chicken described as "finger lickin' good," what typically comes to mind is the stuff that's been deep fried in a big vat of vegetable oil.  But let me tell you what this gluten-free southern gal has come to understand in recent years--it doesn't have to be fried to be finger lickin' good!  

In fact, this is one of those liberating, life-giving lessons I've learned about preparing and cooking real food in general---it doesn't have to be complicated, fussy, or fancy to be delicious.  After all, the real goal here is not only to create meals that will nourish and sustain healthy bodies, but also to create community amongst the souls that gather around the table to enjoy it.  

Now don't get me wrong---I still love me some good ol' fashioned fried chicken, and there's a wonderful way to do it and keep it gluten free.  (Someday I'll blog about that.) But most of the time, it takes an extra level of preparation and time commitment that I'm just not able to give as a busy homeschooling mama!  

So enter roasted chicken!  This is a recipe I can count on when life is hectic and I’m short on time and creativity; or when we just need a comforting, meat-and-veggies type meal that will generate leftovers.

We love it for three reasons:
  • It’s delicious and the whole family enjoys it.  Think golden crispy skin on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside;
  • it’s quick and easy to throw together— only 6 ingredients, hands-on time about 10 minutes, cooked in about 90 minutes;
  • it’s economical and perfect for using leftover in recipes that call for cooked chicken, as well as for making your own nutrient-dense bone broth.
It might surprise you to hear that I didn’t learn to roast chicken this way from my mom or grandmother (although if I’d paid more attention maybe I would have!); and I didn’t learn it from a Southern Living cookbook (good guess though!).

To be honest, once upon a time I thought roasted chicken sounded too boring to be worthy of serving on its own.  Too simple to be any good!  But then several years ago I came across these words from one of my favorite book series (the Mitford books by Jan Karon):
She moved from the window and walked quickly to the kitchen. She would do something that, if only for the briefest hour, had the power to solve everything, to offer certain and absolute consolation. She would cook.
She removed the chicken from the refrigerator, already rubbed with olive oil and crushed garlic, with half a lemon tucked into its cavity. She misted olive oil into her ancient iron skillet, placed the bird on its back, and ground pepper and sea salt onto its plump flesh. From a glass of water on the windowsill she removed a pungent stalk of fresh rosemary and stuck it under the breast skin.  The top of the green stalk waved forth like a feather from a hat band.  She turned the stove dial to 450, where it would remain for thirty minutes before being set at 350 for an hour, and slid the raw feast onto the middle rack.
A Common Life

Is your mouth watering yet?

Preparing my own raw feast, ready to go into the oven 

This description pretty much won me over.  I loved the concept of turning to that one recipe you could cook that “had the power to solve everything, to offer certain and absolute consolation.” Comfort food in all the ways, for the eaters as well as the preparers, in both the cooking and the eating of it.  

It also got me to thinking that sometimes, less is more.  And sometimes, gathering just a few quality ingredients and using a proven method to prepare them is all it takes to turn something seemingly ordinary into something absolutely delicious.

By the way, if you've never read Jan Karon's Mitford series, it is absolutely delightful---stories full of faith, good humor, and, of course, good food.  Since first laying my eyes on these books about 18 years ago, I've read and reread them countless times.  One of the beautiful themes running through the stories, always an inspiration to me in my own kitchen, is this idea of good food and hospitality working hand in hand to create community, draw families closer together, and deepen friendships.  

And thus the genesis to a new culinary endeavor began several years ago at the inspiration of this fictitious town called Mitford and its endearing leading lady Cynthia Coppersmith.  I discovered the specifics for "Cynthia's roasted chicken" (described above) in  Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader, and it’s been a staple in our home ever since!  

Of course, over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit to align with our preferences and to accommodate my own kitchen routine and rhythms.  Whenever possible, I like to make recipes work for ME, rather than the other way around---work smarter, not harder!

So here’s the recipe with options for tweaking it to best fit YOUR kitchen rhythm.  Finger lickin' good, y'all!!!
No-Fuss Whole Roasted Chicken
Serves 6* 
1 whole Chicken (5-7 lbs., preferably pastured locally)
Fresh rosemary sprigs (in a pinch, dried rosemary will work—just add to cavity of chicken and
skip step 4 below)
1 lemon, halved (or use about ¼ cup Lemon juice—I like Santa Cruz organic)
5 cloves, crushed (or 3 T. minced garlic)
Real Salt and Black Pepper 
Avocado oil (or coconut oil)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Remove the innards (liver, etc.) from the chicken and freeze (or refrigerate if using within 2-3 days) to use for broth. (See notes below.)
  3. Place the whole chicken in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, and rub avocado oil and 3 of the crushed garlic cloves (or 2 T. minced garlic) over the chicken.  
  4. Place half the lemon (or all the Lemon juice) in the cavity of the chicken with the remaining garlic and 1-2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary.
  5. Season generously all over and inside the cavity of the chicken with salt.  Lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  6. Turn the chicken breast-side up, and stick two sprigs of Rosemary under the skin.
  7. Roast at 450 for 30 minutes; then turn oven temp down to 350, and continue roasting until done, about an hour.  If needed, cover with a lid (or a piece of aluminum foil) in the last 10-15 minutes to keep the top from burning.
  8. Chicken is done once it’s browned on top, juices run clear, and there’s no pink in the middle; or when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the breast portion registers 150-154 degrees.
  1.  *If you’re feeding a family of 6 and you want leftovers, I highly recommend doubling this recipe and roasting TWO whole chickens.  My family of 6 (3 adults and 3 older kids) can consume nearly one whole chicken in a single meal, especially if it’s on the smaller side.  
  2. SAVE YOUR BONES AND INNARDS.  Use these for homemade broth!  Either dump them in the pot to start your next batch of broth right away, or freeze them to make broth later.  I’ll share my easy process for this in a future post.  In the meantime, this is similar to what I do.
  3. A few of our favorite veggie accompaniments with this meal are:
    1. Oven-roasted sweet potatoes
    2. Oven-roasted bell and sweet peppers
    3. Sautéed green beans
    4. Slices of homegrown tomato (when available).  
    5. Cauliflower rice or regular rice (if you tolerate grains)
  4. A few favorite recipes for using any leftover cooked chicken:
    1. Tomato Basil Risotto
    2. Chicken Tortilla Soup
    3. Dill Chicken Salad (Eat What You Love cookbook by Danielle Walker)
Happy eating, y’all!  

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