My dear husband is a leg man. Too bad he married a woman who is all of 5'2". Well, not too bad, when he is compensated with roasted chicken leg, butternut squash and roasted Brussels sprouts. (The oven was going to be really hot for an hour; I thought I might as well take advantage of it and just roast everything.)
I saw this recipe many years ago in Molly O'Neill's column in the New York Times Magazine, and then later I couldn't resist buying her book, A Well Seasoned Appetite. According to Ms. O'Neill (who can get flavor to dance off the written page) this was adapted from Zuni Cafe, San Francisco.
1 chicken, about 2 1/2 pounds
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
The day before serving, sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Run your fingers between the skin and the flesh of the breast and thighs to make 4 small pockets. Stick a sprig of thyme and a garlic clove in each pocket. Wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Place the chicken, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast until the juices run clear when pricked in the thickest part of the thigh, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Carve the chicken into 8 pieces, top with pan juices.
Notes from Jennifer: There are several things that make this my favorite roasted chicken recipe. Wrapping the chicken overnight lets the bird become thoroughly infused with the garlic and thyme. Really wrap it well; think about swaddling a newborn. Also, the high temperature (425 F) is critical to the crispy skin. Lastly, flipping the chicken over so that it finishes breast down keeps the white meat exceptionally moist. I occasionally use a different herb or aromatic, but always stick with these techniques.
Another note: Whenever I work with raw meat (especially poultry), I like to have everything I'll need already prepared. Once my hands are "committed", I don't want to grab my pepper mill and Kosher salt, etc.
Occasionally, I'm tempted to join the "if some is good, then more must be better," club. I doubled up on the garlic last time, and it really was overpowering -- especially to the five year-olds, but even for their parents. I also used rosemary instead of thyme (gardening issues -- see previous post!), and while that was a nice change, I prefer the original recipe. Rosemary can be a pit bull, coming on strong, sometimes with teeth bared. Thyme is as charming as a soft puppy that you can't help but cuddle.