I've got a thriving tarragon plant in the garden. It's become a bit of a mess, as tarragon tends to do. So, I thought I would switch up my usual roast chicken routine and add a bit of tarragon to the mix. If you've never had tarragon, it's an intense herb with a slight licorice-y flavor and a bit of a tingle on the tongue. But even if you don't like licorice, try it anyway, something magical happens when you combine it into a savory dish. Tarragon is the herb used to flavor bearnaise sauce, which is my all-time favorite sauce. I plan to try to harvest the rest of my tarragon in a few weeks, chop it up, and freeze in cubes. (Or I may just make an enormous batch of tarragon butter and freeze that. That's if I don't just eat it all at once, of course.)
Roasting a whole chicken is definitely a time-consuming task, but it's well worth it, and you'll be able to get at least two to four or more meals out of it (meal 1: eat chicken with roasted potatoes; meal 2: make chicken sandwiches; meal 3: pick most of the chicken off the bones and make chicken salad for sandwiches; meal 4: save the carcass in the freezer to make stock another time).
Here's how to do it.
Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees (Fahrenheit). Butter a deep baking dish. Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
Step 2: Remove leaves from about three sprigs of tarragon and chop them finely. Blend the chopped leaves into about half a cup of softened, salted butter.
Step 3: Salt and pepper the chicken liberally, on both sides and inside the cavity of the chicken.
Step 4: Wash a lemon well. Squeeze out the juice and set it aside. Stuff the remaining lemon halves inside the chicken.
Step 5: Use 2-3 tablespoons of tarragon butter (set the rest aside for another use) and smear it under the skin of the chicken. (To loosen the skin, gently push fingers underneath and detach it from the meat. By the way, this is also a great technique for flavoring your Thanksgiving turkey.)
Step 6: Place the chicken in the buttered baking dish and add about two cups of water to the bottom of the dish to keep the chicken from drying out. (Feel free to pat a little more butter on top of the chicken if you are so inclined.) Slide the pan into the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes.
Step 7: After 30 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven. Sprinkle half of the reserved lemon juice over the top of the chicken. Then turn the chicken over and sprinkle the remaining lemon juice over the other side. (My only advice for turning the chicken? Use two large spoons or spatulas and be careful. It's not an elegant operation.)
Step 8: From this point on, turn the chicken every 20 minutes or so. Make sure to spend 2-3 minutes spooning the liquid in the baking dish over both sides of the chicken. The chicken will be done in about 2 hours and 15 minutes (to check for doneness, use either a thermometer or stick a fork or knife into the thickest part of the thigh, if the juices run clear, the chicken is fully cooked).
Step 9: When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving it. In the meantime, you can make gravy with the pan drippings if you so desire.
Simple pan gravy:
- Pour the pan drippings into a separator cup and let the drippings divide into two layers. (The top layer will be the fat layer.) Spoon off about 3 Tbsps of the fat and add it to a pan.
- Add 3 Tbsps flour to the hot fat. Let the mixture cook for a couple of minutes.
- Whisking continuously, add the liquid part of the pan drippings (should be about 1 to 1.5 cups) to the fat-flour mixture in the pan. Let the gravy thicken over medium heat. If the gravy is too salty, add a little cream or half-and-half.