If I had to sum up Fall in one dish it would have to be roasted chicken. On a chilly, autumn day, it’s the culinary equivalent of your favorite comfy, cashmere cardigan that provides warmth as well as a little bit of nostalgia.
I positively adore this classic dish and consider roasted chicken research a passionate personal pursuit. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of incarnations and while it’s always fun to try new things, the best versions of this dish are often the most simple: succulent chicken with crispy skin seasoned generously with salt, pepper, butter, and a selection of seasonal herbs…it just doesn’t get much better!
One of my most memorable poultry experiences was during a trip to France’s Burgundy wine region at Bistro de l’Hotel in L’Hotel de Beaune. It was a roasted Bresse chicken, a breed prized for its tender flesh and sublime depth of flavor named for its area of origin, near France’s Rhône region. Bresse chickens were the first livestock to be granted AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) status in 1957 and, much like France’s AOC wines, are subjected to very exacting standards in order to preserve the qualities which make them so unique. The Bresse chicken at Bistro de l’Hotel was simply roasted with butter, white wine, and seasoned with salt and pepper which allowed the flavor of the meat to really shine through. The bird was then carved tableside, its salty, golden juices beckoning from the cutting board. The skin was deliciously crisp and flavorful while the breast meat was as tender and toothsome as the dense, meaty leg and thigh. Paired with a 2010 Alex Gambal Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes I experienced true poultry nirvana that night and the perfectly executed crème brûlée which followed certainly didn’t hurt!
Inspired by my experience in Burgundy, as well as many other delicious poultry encounters, I came up with this recipe for a delicious basic bird. Once you have that recipe under your belt, you can accessorize according to the season or mood. In the Fall, rosemary, mushrooms and onions are great choices, while in the Spring, lemon and thyme would be ideal. To prepare the chicken I always use an organic bird which I butterfly by removing the backbone. Now don’t panic! Butterflying a bird is easy to do and allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly. Using your poultry shears, cut a line parallel to the bird’s spine from the tail to neck. Remove the spine and discard or reserve for chicken stock. If you’re squeamish you can absolutely ask your butcher to do this for you – there’s no shame in that!
When roasting a chicken or other meat it’s important to use a roasting pan or baking sheet that’s not too big. The ingredients should fit with a minimal amount of room to spare, otherwise if the pan is too large, any drippings will evaporate and possibly burn, leaving you high and dry with no hopes for gravy or jus to serve the meat with – a culinary travesty! With the spine removed, the butterflied chicken is placed on an appropriate sized baking sheet, rubbed with olive oil, and seasoned generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fragrant, fresh rosemary sprigs are tucked between the bird’s thigh and breast while sliced onions, mushrooms, and more fresh rosemary are scattered messily around the chicken. For a little added nostalgia, sprinkle the entire tray with poultry seasoning (such as Bell’s - hello childhood!) and the minute you put the tray in your pre-heated oven your kitchen will smell heavenly!
I like to serve the roasted chicken plated atop a delicious White Bean & Garlic Mash (see recipe below) which catches all of the delicious juices, however, traditional mashed potatoes will also work perfectly well. Top the chicken with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions and drizzle with the remaining juice and a generous sprinkle of Maldon sea salt which adds delcious texture and crunch. In keeping with the season, an earthy, cherry and spice-tinged red Burgundy or New World Pinot Noir will enhance the flavors of the dish beautifully. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onions
1 – 3 1/2 – 4 lb organic chicken
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 small yellow onions
Good olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Tablespoon poultry seasoning such as Bell’s
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Maldon Sea Salt for garnish
Line a medium sized baking sheet with foil and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove giblets from cavity of chicken (if necessary), rinse bird & pat dry. Place chicken breast side down on a cutting board and using your kitchen shears, make a parallel cut up each side of the spine from tail to neck until the spine is free. Remove and discard or reserve for stock.
Place the butterflied chicken, breast side up onto the lined baking sheet. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and fold two of the rosemary sprigs in half and tuck them between the thigh and breast on each side of the bird. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and massage onto skin so it is evenly distributed. Season chicken generously with Kosher salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.
Quarter each onion, and then quarter them again so you are left with 8 onion wedges per onion. Scatter onion pieces, sliced mushrooms and leaves only from the remaining 2 sprigs of rosemary around the chicken. Drizzle the mushrooms, onions & rosemary with approximately 3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil (or to taste), season again with Kosher salt & pepper, and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the Bell’s seasoning over everything if desired and slice butter into pats and place on top of the chicken, onions, mushrooms and rosemary.
Slide tray into oven and bake for 1 hour, checking occasionally to rearrange mushrooms & onions. After an hour, drop the oven temperature down to 300 degrees and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, just enough time to allow the onions to caramelize and the skin to get a golden brown.
Plate chicken atop a mound of White Bean & Garlic Mash (see recipe below) and top with roasted mushrooms & caramelized onions. Drizzle with juice and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt to taste.
White Bean & Garlic Mash
2 – 15 oz. cans white beans (I prefer Great Northern), drained & rinsed
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed, flat leaf Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup good olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 turns freshly ground black pepper
Add beans, garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, Kosher salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is well combined but still retains a chunky texture. Adjust seasonings and add additional olive oil or lemon juice to achieve desired texture and flavor.
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