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Author Notes: Were do I start. We raise chickens for our table and all I can say is they are delicious and like nothing I have ever eaten. There is no need to brine them because they are succulent, juicy and have a flavor profile all their own. Different breeds have different flavors and what we raise is different from commercial breeds. When we started raising meat birds we let them free-range until butchering day. The result was tough as nails and only meant for the pressure cooker. So, being OCD, I got online and started researching how they raise the famous French Bresse chicken. The end results are unbelievable. I like big birds but for this I like them smaller. Years ago I learned from the Dean and Deluca cookbook their recipe for Bistro chicken. They rub them with goose fat and roast them slow and low. I like the goose fat but for smaller birds I like a high heat oven. The goose fat I use comes from our black peppercorn and thyme crusted Christmas goose (Trotter Cooks at Home). So imagine the flavor of the fat but duck fat will also work here. I stuff the cavity with aromatics not so much for flavor but anticipation. The aromatics and roasting chicken make the house smell wonderful creating the anticipation of eating, especially if there are home made rolls in the oven too. One final note, the night before I cook the chickens I set them in the fridge, uncovered, on a tray with edges to catch any juices. It allows the skin to dry, creating a pellicle, and the chicken browns more evenly. —thirschfeld
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 chickens, 3 1/2 pounds each
- 3 tablespoons goose, duck fat or even bacon drippings
- 1 head of garlic, halved
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 small onion halved
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 handful Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed in a mortar and pestal
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- The night before you want to cook the chickens rinse out the cavities with cold water and drain. Place the chickens on a sheet pan and place, uncovered, in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the cavities of each bird with some fennel seed, black pepper and kosher salt. Place the birds in a roasting pan large enough to hold them comfortably. Next place half a head of garlic, half a lemon, half an onion, half the thyme and parsley into the cavity of each bird. Now rub the exterior each bird top to bottom with the goose fat. Wash and dry your hands. Season the birds evenly and on all sides with the remainder of the fennel, black pepper and salt. Tuck the wings under the bird and truss the legs with kitchen twine, Place the chickens in the oven and roast for 40 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees and roast for another 35 minutes. Check them for doneness. Cook them longer if needed. Remove the chickens from the oven and at this point if you wanted you could make a pan au jus from the drippings or let them rest for 10 minutes then carve and serve.