There is no meal more classic or comforting than a beautiful herb roast chicken. In fact, most professional chefs say that there are two tests of a great cook – a perfectly cooked egg and a perfectly roasted chicken. To quote the always brash and entertaining Anthony Bourdain “…if you can’t properly roast a damn chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron.”
But there must be as many ways to roast a chicken as there are chefs. I’ve brined chickens, put herbed butter under the skin, basted the chicken during roasting, and used many other techniques and they’ve all worked well. But this recipe is simple and not at all messy, and yields a delicious roast chicken. I like to serve this with a panzanella, or bread salad. The vinaigrette on the salad is a great complement to the chicken and adds a little zing to the dish. Oh, and did I mention that this is a very healthy meal as well?
While you can make the bread salad while the chicken is cooking, you will need to dry out the bread for the salad using the oven. If you have two ovens, go ahead and do the chicken first and do the bread while the chicken is roasting. If you have only one oven, do the bread first, then the chicken, then the rest of the salad.
For the bread, it would be ideal to cut the bread into cubes and let them sit out for a couple of hours first. But if you don’t have time for that, no problem. You’re looking to dry out the cubes as much as possible so that they’ll soak up the vinaigrette in the salad without getting soggy. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Take a loaf of sourdough bread and cut into 1 1/2″ thick slices, then cut the slices into 1 1/2″ cubes (you want 4 cups total). Put the cubes on a dry baking sheet and place in the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes (until dry, crisp and light brown). Remove and set aside.
Herb Roast Chicken
1 3-4 lb chicken (preferably organic)
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven (or increase the temperature if you did the bread in the same oven) to 450 degrees. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and any wrapping and place on a plate, baking sheet, or any other dry surface. Mix the sage, parsley, thyme and salt together in a small bowl land sprinkle liberally all over the chicken, rubbing in with your hands. Allow to stand at room temperature for an hour.
Rub the chicken all over with olive oil (don’t worry if most of the herb mixture rubs off), and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Put in the center of the oven and roast for an hour. Test the temperature by inserting an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken thigh. If it reads 165, it’s ready! Remove from the oven and let rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes.
4 large ripe tomatoes (or the equivalent volume in smaller ones), cut into 2″ chunks
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4″ slices
2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 bunch butter lettuce or romaine leaves, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Make the vinaigrette by whisking together all the ingredients called for in a small bowl or measuring cup. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and when hot, add the garlic, leeks and fennel. Sauté until the fennel is crisp tender, about 8 minutes. Put the sautéed ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes and lettuce and toss with enough dressing to coat. Taste and add more dressing if desired. Wait to add the dried bread cubes until JUST before serving.
Carve the herb roast chicken and serve a leg/thigh piece or a breast to each guest with the panzanella on the side.