The Perfectly Roasted Chicken

One morning, years ago, as I was driving my youngest sister, C, to school, I looked in the rear view mirror and asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She thought it through. I thought too. Mostly about her as a baby, how I loved watching her grow up. Her toddler-age love affair with gnawing on sticks of butter. Girl after my own heart. What does someone who, yesterday, was dressed as a Teletubby, want to do with her life? I lowered the volume on the radio, heaven forbid the Pussycat Dolls influence her career contemplation.

She looked down, examined her blue polish, looked up, and squarely said, “a forensic scientist.”


I don’t know what I was expecting her to say. Probably something more along the lines of what I was dreaming to be: a singer. I had just told her about my future. Touring the world, writing songs, singing my little heart out, making sure that my rider was less obscene than J.Lo’s. I might have even given her the dimensions to my someday mansion.

Maybe I wanted her to watch less CSI and more Dawson’s Creek. Be like Joey Potter. Whatever she did, I just didn’t want her to grow up. I hoped she’d stay young and idealistic forever. Put Now and Then on repeat and Sugar Sugar on an endless loop.

I’ve never wanted to grow up. Not once. Even when being older would have been a one way ticket to paradise, I wanted to stay put. Maybe all kids who grow up fast and are adults before their time idealize the same forever youth. We should all build a commune, live like the Brady’s we wished we were. Dibs on Marsha.

Roasting a whole chicken is a sign that I’ve grown up. Only adults do things like basting, checking temperatures in birds’ unmentionables, and carving. And they practice that awful thing, patience.

It’s actually a perk of being big. All my years of watching Miss J trill about the art of French cooking, and the perfectly prepared chicken, and now I can emulate her. Pearls, curls, and all. Still Punky Brewster on the inside, though.

You grow up being fed and now you become the feeder. It’s beautiful, really. The sense of satisfaction that comes from making others smile, even if only through their bellies. Maybe cooking has become my singing. The chance to express myself and affect others, only in a less obscene and narcissistic way. I should cook in sequins unitards and set up spotlights in my kitchen, paint the walls dayglo at the very least. That way I’ll feel like I thought I would at 25: a superstar singer…with a baster.

Perfectly Roasted Chicken

(inspired by EatLikeMe)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use paper towels to thoroughly dry a 4-5 lb whole chicken. You want it as dry as possible.

Rub olive oil all over the bird, maybe 2-3 tablespoons. Then sprinkle it generously with salt.

Slice one large Vidalia onion into thick rounds and place them in the bottom of a dutch oven or roasting pan. The onions will act as a natural elevator for the chicken, so that it’s not stewing in its own juices.

Place the bird on top of the onion slices.

Set the pan, uncovered, on the lowest rack of your oven and roast for about 1 hour and 45 minutes (for a 4-5lb bird), or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest, meatiest part of the chicken reads 165°F.

I recommend basting the bird halfway with the juices that have collected at the bottom of the pan. This helps ensure that the chicken will be moist.


Let the chicken stand for 20 minutes or so, to rest and retain its juices, then carve and serve.



18 thoughts on “The Perfectly Roasted Chicken

  1. bonnielu

    Nice to meet you through FoodBuzz and your post! This is hitting home especially as I’m turning the big 4-0 in a couple of months. Haven’t decided what I want to do on my birthday yet. Maybe I’ll roast my first chicken!

  2. Cindy

    Gosh A,
    It never occurred to me that you could roast it in a pan. I have done that in a crock pot (OH MY) and in a turkey pan…


    I think it’s totally cool your sister wanted to be a forensic scientist!


    but I totally hear you! The day my baby brother headed off for Navy boot camp I cried and cried proud Mama tears! (because I was his second MOM)

    dibs in Cindy! hehehehehe

  3. Leah @ Why Deprive?

    Wow, I would never be brave enough to roast a chicken myself. You’re right, it does seem like such a grown up thing to do. Im not a fan of growing up – the only thing I really like about it is the 9:30 bedtime. I REALLY like my 9:30 bedtime! :)

  4. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self

    Haha I guess I haven’t grown up yet because I’ve definitely never roasted a chicken like this! But I’d like to give it a shot. I definitely think that cooking has become your singing…perhaps your next post will feature a photo of you cooking in your sequin leotard? :)

  5. Pretty. Good. Food.

    I’m embarrassed to admit this but I’ve yet to roast a whole chicken. I walk around the market it with it in my cart but the thought of preparing it for some reason freaks me out.
    I am determined to try this recipe, it looks so easy, I can do it! :)
    Great photos!

  6. M.J. Jacobsen

    Great recipe for the upcoming fall days we will be having soon in Seattle! I love my 9:30 bedtime too, I just forget it sometimes!


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