A few years back, the Colonel and I switched from turkey to chicken for Thanksgiving. Even the smallest turkeys we could find ended up being more than we could finish. And considering I don’t roast chickens every day either, it’s special enough for the occasion.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this matter under the spotty tutelage of Chef Google. And I still don’t have it quite right. So please indulge me as I share what I tried this year. I’m sold on some of these techniques, but I’ll be honest about the ones still up for revision.
First, the math. We wanted to eat at about 12:30. I worked out a cooking time of roughly 2 and a half hours (which I think may have been a little long). That meant I wanted to put the bird in the oven at 10:00 a.m.
So around 9:30 I got her out of the fridge and rinsed her off good with cool water. I pulled off the loose fat and patted her dry with paper towels.
The next task was to scrub my celery and cut off the leafy ends. (I planned to use the celery stalks for my stuffing, natch.) Then I washed up a pound of carrots and cut the stems off a couple of those. No peeling? Damn right! I also peeled and quartered a white onion, and set the oven for 450°
Now, here’s one of those moves I’m not fully sold on. I whisked together a stick of softened butter, half a small lemon, and some marjoram to make lemon-herb butter.
With help from my faithful sous chef, I salted and peppered the chicken inside and out. Then I rubbed it down with the lemon-herb butter. Outside, inside, and under the skin. In hindsight, I don’t think the lemon did any good. Next year I’ll probably go back to plain butter — the way my mama does it!
Next, I stuffed the chicken with half the onion, two carrots (cut in half), a few celery leaves, the rinds of my squeezed lemon, and some rosemary sprigs. I am totally sold on the rosemary. Some folks like thyme, sage, and/or bay, so if you ever want to try this, there are some ideas.
At last came time to put the chicken in the oven. I think it’s worth mentioning here, if you don’t use a roaster with a rack, you can just pile up all those vegetables and set the bird on top of them. I use the rack-and-stuffing approach because I find the rack helps with even cooking.
After about 15 minutes, I cut the heat down to 350°. I also put green beans and carrots on to slow simmer. Because, you know, they ain’t proper vegetables unless they’ve been cooked within an inch of their lives.
It all hit the fan starting about 11:30. That’s why I only managed to take two pictures of the entire sweet potato and stuffing preparation. But you’ll have to wait, because I’m not spilling my sweet tater secrets til tomorrow.
Just before I started trying to gnaw off one of my arms, it was time to take the chicken out of the oven.
And since that moment, my life has almost exclusively involved the following: eat, sleep, repeat. Hooray for Thanksgiving.