I adore the convenience of my kitchen-door herb garden, although it seems that very little of it actually survives our snowy winters. The only plant that reliably comes through the ordeal is the Broadleaf sage- a common variety- which just loves its spot, and produces endless handfuls of velvety leaves from snowmelt to Thanksgiving.
It would certainly be the most trite thing in the world to comment on how wonderful a really good roasted chicken is. But...trite is true. And this terrific method produces the most succulent roast chicken, while using tons of my happy sage leaves. Herbalists take note: Sage has an impressive history dating back millenia--it is believed to impart wisdom, long life, good health, domestic virtue, and mitigation of grief...makes sense that it goes so well with Roast Chicken!
Once you have prepped the chickens this way, you can roast them following whatever method you prefer, but I will describe my two favorites.
Around here, the small kosher chickens we get (3-4 lbs) are good for about 2-3 diners- with a bit leftover for a chicken sandwich or two the next day.
What happens in this method is that the sage creates a space between the skin and the bird, infusing the meat with the most delicious scent, while allowing the fat to drip off, and the skin to crisp to perfection.
Get everything arranged before you start the assembly, because your hands will be...you know...
3-4 lb. roasting/fryer Chicken
big handful of fresh sage leaves
assorted other fresh herbs if you have them- thyme, small sprig of rosemary, marjoram or oregano
salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence
1. Wash the chicken well under cold running water, being sure to remove the plastic bag holding innards if there is one. Leave the chicken soaking in the cold water for half an hour or so, if it is a kosher bird, or if not consider brining it for an hour or two.
2. Wash sage leaves well, and remove from stalks.
3. Quarter the lemons.
4. Place the chicken on a cutting board, and clean up any pinfeathers (an old tweezer works great for this). Pull and large pockets of fat out of the cavity and discard or save for another use. (You can put it into a heavy ziplock bag in the freezer until you need it. )
5. Squeeze half the lemon into the cavity, and leave it in there, sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbs de provence, and any additional herbs you wish to use.
6. Using your fingers, gently separate the chicken skin from the flesh all over the bird, including the back, the wings, legs etc. Try to not tear the skin, but if it happens, don't get upset.
7. Stuff sage leaves between the flesh and the skin working them into all the crevices.
9. Sprinkle the trussed chicken with the rest of the lemon, a good grinding of fresh pepper, and some more herbs de provence.
TO GRILL: Prepare the rotisserie on your grill, thread chicken(s) onto rod, and grill for about 45 minutes to an hour until done.
TO ROAST: Preheat oven to 475. Arrange a grid rack (like you would use to cool cookies) over a roasting pan, and pour about a cup of water or white wine into the pan below. The grid lifts the chicken out into the open hot oven, allowing the heat to circulate all around the bird, and letting the fat drip off into the liquid below. CAUTION: THIS METHOD CREATES QUITE A BIT OF SMOKE...but a delicious bird, which, for a 3.5 lb. bird takes only about 50 minutes. Remove carefully, and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving.
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