I’m on a mission to learn to roast the perfect chicken, you know. The thing I’ve found out about roast chicken is that everyone cooks theirs differently – some people swear by brining, some people swear by cooking at low heat (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Mendelstahm), some people at high heat (Chef Waxman cooks his at a whopping 475° the whole way through!), some people insist on tenting, some on basting every five minutes. The choices are endless – and a little confusing.

So I figured, I’ll try a bunch of different ways and see what comes out. Every week when I grocery shop, I pick up a 5#-ish bird, and try something new. At the end I boil down the bones for stock, which means we get two meals from it, so I really don’t feel extravagant at all.

This week Jaquelyn came upstairs with the latest Living, which is all full of chicken recipes, and we both squeed over a roast chicken that involved paprika, and eight heads of garlic. Hello, Martha – I’mma try your recipe!

Then I screwballed it. I neglected to realize until I’d already cut all the garlic in half that Martha’s recipe* calls for two whole chickens, not one. Oops. I adjusted the spice mix accordingly and carried on baravely. But listen! Something magical happened – that chicken was delicious! Thank you, Martha! Below is what happened, as well as the potatoes I made to compliment the meat.

Eight Headed Chicken – serves 4-5

spice mix:
1Tbs paprika
1tsp oregano
1/2tsp kosher salt

5# whole chicken
Olive oil
8 heads of garlic
Low-sodium chicken broth**

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Cut garlic in half horizontally, drizzle all but two with oil, and set aside.
2. Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Put the two unoiled garlic heads inside the chicken cavity. Tuck the wings under, and tie up the legs if you are so inclined (I didn’t have any kitchen string on hand, so I didn’t). Place breast up on a roasting pan, and rub with about 1Tbsp of olive oil. Dust the chicken with the spice mix.
3. Just before putting the bird in the oven, reduce oven temp to 400°. Roast for 20 minutes, baste with juices from the pan, or if there isn’t enough in the pan to baste with, with chicken broth. Roast another ten minutes, then place the oiled garlic heads, root end up, in the pan with the chicken and tent loosely with foil. Roast another 30 minutes.
4. Martha’s recipe said that at this point the chicken should be about finished, but my bird looked pale and not at all like the one in the magazine picture. Also, it totally wasn’t cooked through. If yours is in this state too, remove the tent, and continue roasting until the skin is crisp and golden and a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh (on the breast side, but not at the bone!) reads 165 for fifteen seconds. This took my 5# chicken another 25-ish minutes. When the skin is lovely, the temp is right, and juices run clear, pull the chicken from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes*** before cutting in.

Heavenly Mash – serves 4-5

2 roasted heads of garlic from the Eight-Headed Chicken
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into1/4″ rounds
Half a stick of butter, cut into chunks
Splash of whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a generous pot of water to a boil with a dash of kosher salt. Add potatoes and boil until potatoes break easily when poked with a fork.  While the boiling is going on, remove cloves from the two heads of roasted garlic. use a fork to mash the garlic into a paste, and set aside.
2. Strain potatoes and put back in the pot along with the butter and the mashed garlic. Allow to sit, covered, until the butter melts – just a few minutes.
3. When the butter is melted, mash with a ricer. Add milk until potatoes reach the consistency you like, then salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

These two dishes, along with a side of steamed green beans, was moan-of-joy inducing. As well, the chicken has the pleasing side effect of spreading an amazing aroma throughout the entire house while it cooks. I’ll definitely be making this again.

***

*Martha’s recipe is in the latest issue of Living, but the recipe isn’t online yet or I’d link it for you. I’m putting this one up from memory, as aforementioned issue of Living is in Daniel’s apartment somewhere, and both of them are still sleeping (I know – sad morning coffee without them).
**Every time I roast a chicken, the recipe calls to baste the bird in the pan drippings pretty early on. I don’t know where these folks get their chickens, but it might be from Extra Special Super Juicy Farms (TM) or something – my chicken never drips enough in the first half hour to baste with.  So I turn to the chicken broth. A quarter to half a cup generally does the trick for that first baste.
***No really – let it rest. A magical thing happens when the meat rests.

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