Celebrate with Creative Cuisine by Smitty

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Recipe of the Week!

Smitty's recipes appear in Stir it Up, a regular column in The Weekly (a local publication accessible throughout North Lake Tahoe and at www.tahoethisweek.com). For questions or tips, contact the chef at smitty@chefsmitty.com.

Flavorful Whole Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1T sage
  • 1/2T rosemary
  • 1/2T basil
  • 1T salt
  • 1T pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1oz sherry
  • 3oz water
  • 12 inches butchers twine

Combine the finely chopped garlic with ¾ of the herbs and rub the inside of the chicken well. Put a few knife wholes in the lemon and place inside the cavity. Loop the twine around the front of the chicken and then up around the legs to pull the legs back close to the body of the bird and tie it off. Brown the skin on top of the oven all the way around and then finish in the oven at 350 for forty five minutes or until the juice comes out clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a small sharp knife. For just thighs, pull the skin back but not off completely from the meat. Season the meat with the sage, rosemary, basil, salt, and pepper. Replace the skin and season the top of the skin with just a little more of the seasonings. Place the chicken skin side down in a hot pan on the stove top to brown the skin.Flip the chicken over and put it into the oven to finish. Enjoy!

The Story

Last week, I mentioned how there was a set menu in my house while I was growing up. Thursday was always chicken night. Now I have to say, I loved chicken night and I’m really not complaining. I did, however, learn to ask for the dark meat as much as possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the white meat, but if you didn’t get it from the thick end of the breast; it would take an extra glass of milk to wash it down because it was more than just a little dry. When Mom cooked the chicken, she would usually just take it out of the bag and put it right into the oven without doing anything to it.

As we got older and our taste buds got a little more refined, she would sprinkle a little salt on it. Once in a while she would even baste it once during the cooking time. It was still pretty dry though and the dark meat was still the best. These days, I still eat a lot of chicken. It is a much more affordable meal than beef which is a big consideration for a lot of people. Most of the time, I will still get a family package of thighs or full legs. I’ll portion the chicken out and freeze it so I can take out as many portions at a time as I will need. Sometimes, I will cook off a whole chicken if I am having guests for dinner or if I want leftovers’ for sandwiches.

Whether you are cooking a whole chicken or just parts, there are a few easy things you can do to keep the chicken moist and add a lot of flavor. When cooking a whole chicken, first you will want to season it. Rub the inside cavity of the body with a good amount of garlic, sage, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper. You can be fairly generous with the amounts because you are actually putting the spices on mostly bones and you want the flavor to permeate the meat.

A while back there was a craze for lemon chicken. If you want to add a little lemon flavor, you can put a few knife wholes into a lemon and stick it into the cavity of the bird. For more lemon flavor cut the lemons in half and you can also squeeze a little of the juice right into the cavity. The lemon will also add a little more moisture to the meat. Once the cavity is
seasoned, you want to tie the legs so that they are pulled back and close to the body of the bird. The legs will actually cover the thin part of the breast which will keep that section of meat from over cooking and drying out. Once tied, rub the outside of the body with sage, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper. I do not usually rub garlic on the outside because there will be enough garlic flavors from inside the bird and I don’t want to burn the garlic when I brown the outside skin. Garlic gets very bitter when it burns. Now that the bird is all seasoned and tied, it is ready to cook.

Turn the oven on to 350, and put the pan you are going to use on a burner on top of the stove to get hot. Some people like to spread a little oil or butter over the outside to help it crisp up and brown. If you are just going to throw the chicken right into the oven, that is a good idea. If you brown the bird on top of the stove first, then I find there is enough fat in the skin so that you do not need the extra oil. I find browning it on top of the stove will sear it a little quicker and that will keep the meat just that tiny bit moister. Once the pan on the stove is hot, put the chicken in skin side or breast side down.

Let the skin get a nice golden brown and then roll the bird a little until the entire outside is golden. Flip the bird right side up and place it in the oven for about forty five minutes or so depending on the size of the chicken. To test if it is done, push a small sharp knife through the thickest part of the thigh all the way to the bone. If the juice comes out clear then the chicken is ready but if there is any red in the juice then it still needs a little more time.

If you are just cooking thighs or legs, and want to add a little flavor, try this simple tip. Peel the skin back away from the meat but not all the way off. Season the meat with the herbs, salt and pepper and replace the skin. Sprinkle a little more seasoning over the skin and over the bottom of the meat. Get your pan hot on top of the stove. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan to brown the skin and then once the skin is golden, simply flip the meat over and place right away into the oven to finish.

If you would like to make a very simple sauce for the chicken, just take the chicken out of the pan to rest before slicing and add a little sherry to deglaze the pan on the stove top. Use a wooden spoon to be sure to free up all the chicken and herb parts that have stuck to the pan. When the sherry is almost evaporated, add a little water and let that cook down. All you need is a little of this juice drizzled over your chicken to add a lot more flavor. Enjoy the meal.

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