(Before the photo police come a-calling, let me just put a disclaimer right up here at the front: I took this photo with my phone on Sunday evening, just before dinner, and I know it's sort of hideous, but I had absolutely no intention of blogging about it and so didn't think to pull out my real camera and anyway, even if I had, it is a proven fact of life that shooting meat is, shall we say, challenging and leave it at that.)
There! Now let's get down to brass tacks.
THIS CHICKEN. It may have the worst name in recipe-naming history (I'm renaming it Slow-Roasted Chicken), but that doesn't even matter, not one little bit, because OMG THIS CHICKEN. (Yes, I know with the all-caps, but this chicken deserves them plus several exclamation marks and a lot of underlining and four-letter words, too.)
The recipe comes from the current issue of Bon Appetit and even if you think that a new recipe for roast chicken is snoozeworthy, you need to know about this. Like, REALLY. (People, I have feelings about this chicken and they are not equivocal!)
Instead of roasting your bird at high heat or slathered with butter or barded with bacon, here you put together a little herb-spice rub (fennel, hot pepper, marjoram, thyme and salt), add some olive oil and then rub the bird all over with that mixture, sort of as if you were giving it a relaxing salt scrub. You stuff the bird with a whole head of garlic cut in half, a lemon cut into quarters and more marjoram and thyme. Then you put the bird on top of some thyme sprigs on a baking sheet, surround it with potatoes (I added carrots and parsnips) and put it in a low oven, 300° F, for two to three hours.
When the chicken is done (I put my oven just a little higher - at 160° C instead of 150° C - so it was done a little after two hours - but I had to take the vegetables out earlier, so definitely pay attention to what's going on in your oven around the 90-minute mark if you're going with the original temperature), it is meltingly tender and the joints have practically dissolved. The skin is irresistibly crisp, but you have none of the crazy chicken-fat smoking out of the oven that crispy skin usually requires. The roasted vegetables have shrunk and sweetened and are infused with herby, savory chicken fat. It's pretty much the greatest Sunday dinner ever.
But I'm not even done yet!
Because, believe it or not, this roast chicken, as delicious and perfect as it is freshly roasted, goes straight into the stratosphere as leftovers. I mean, cold roast chicken of any kind is tough to beat - it's just one of those home-run foods that everyone loves (right? RIGHT?) - but this cold roast chicken is unparalleled. A day or two of sitting in the fridge and it's pretty much the best thing ever.
Bonus proof-that-this-chicken-is-the-chicken-to-end-all-chickens story: This evening, while I was pulling the remaining meat off the carcass to repurpose as Indonesian chicken salad, Hugo literally grabbed the entire breast that I had just lifted off the bones out of my hands (I'd already put some shredded meat on his plate!) and proceeded to devour it, with his hands, like a very cute and yet slightly terrifying and hungry little caveman.
Slow-Roasted Herbed Chicken
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram; plus 4 sprigs, divided (I used dried and skipped the sprigs)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme; plus 4 sprigs, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 3½–4 pound chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, halved, or quartered if large
1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150 C°). Mix the fennel, red pepper, chopped or dried marjoram, chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl. Rub chicken inside and out with spice mixture. Stuff chicken with lemon, garlic, 2 marjoram sprigs, and 2 thyme sprigs. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.
2. Toss potatoes with remaining oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Push potatoes to edges of baking sheet and scatter remaining 2 marjoram and 2 thyme sprigs in center; place chicken on herbs. Roast, turning potatoes and basting chicken every hour, until skin is browned, meat is extremely tender, and potatoes are golden brown and very soft, 2-3 hours. Let chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving.