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Lemon & Lavender Roast Chicken
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I've got a secret for you. You wanna hear it? The key to moist and flavorful poultry is brining. What, you already knew that? So why don't you do it more often? Oh, you do it frequently? Sorry, my bad. Okay, but for those of you who have never brined a bird before, I'm about to change your life. After I learned the secret of brining, gone forever were the days of unattractive upside-down roasted Thanksgiving turkeys, or breast meat so dry it sticks to the roof of your mouth. I never ever roast a bird anymore without brining it first, and done properly the results are unbelievable flavor and breast meat so moist it's literally wet.
I just noticed how the zucchini and squash coordinate with the green and yellow of the lavender and lemon. That makes my artistic heart happy. I also just noticed for the umpteenth time how horribly last-century the dishes at my disposal are. That makes my artistic heart eager for the day I can buy my own dishes!
Anyway, back to the chicken. Let's start with the lavender. Lavender has always been my absolute favorite scent, and though I've always dreamed of doing so, I never actually cooked with it until yesterday. I don't know much about the different kinds of lavender, and I'm not even entirely sure what exactly I used. All I know is that the tag on the plant I got at Hope Depot said "culinary lavender" and it's non-flowering. I don't think the leaves are quite as sweet or pungent as the flowers, but they're still lovely. At any rate, I'm sure whatever kind of lavender you choose to use for this recipe would work fine.
To prepare the brine, combine three quarts of water, fresh lavender sprigs, lemon slices, whole black peppercorns, a little sugar, and lots of salt in a large stock pot. Bring this to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, boil for about three minutes, then remove from the heat, cover, and let it cool. Once it's cooled completely, strain the brine and return it to the pot.
Take your chicken, remove and discard the giblets, rinse it thoroughly with cold water and add it to the brine. Then add enough cold water to completely submerge the chicken. Cover the pot and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 20. The longer it soaks the more flavorful and moist the finished product will be. Alternately, especially if you're short on fridge space, you could put all this in a cooler to soak with a little ice.
After the chicken's finished soaking, discard the brine. Place the chicken on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and pat it dry with paper toweling. Now take half a lemon and cut it in quarters. Stuff these and a couple more sprigs of lavender into the chicken cavity.
Take the other half of the lemon, zest it, and finely chop a little more lavender. Mix these and some fresh cracked black pepper into some room temperature butter. Carefully separate the skin from the breasts, and rub half of the butter mixture inside and as far back as you can without tearing the skin.
Then take the remaining butter mixture and rub all over the outside of the chicken. Tuck the wing tips underneath the bird and truss the legs. Now you're ready to stick it in the oven...
...which you should've preheated to 500°. Slide the chicken into the oven legs first (the higher temp at the back of the oven helps the dark meat to cook at the same rate as the white meat). Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, allowing the skin to get golden and crispy. Then reduce the heat to 350° and roast for about another hour. It's done when the internal temperature is 170°. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover, and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. I know, this is far from the most beautiful bird you've ever seen (I attribute that to my unevenly heated oven), but give it a break, at least it tasted freaking amazing!
I could not believe the absurd amount of juice that this chicken produced. There had to've been at least 2 cups in the bottom of that pan! I just spooned it over the chicken after slicing it and the rice I was serving alongside, but you could make a delicious gravy with it if you prefer.
This was the best roast chicken I've ever had, hands down. The aromas and flavors were incredibly beautiful.
Also, I need to go to culinary school if only to learn how to carve a chicken.