I don't know about you, but ever since "they" invented the skinless, boneless chicken breast in a convenient 1 1/2 # styrofoam package, that's how I have made chicken. And I had been very happy with cooking chicken in this fashion. I didn't really know any other way. Then Michael Pollan disillusioned me in The Omnivore's Dilemma and I just can't bring myself to buy that kind of chicken anymore. So, I can buy skinless, boneless free-range chicken at the East End Coop for $10.00 a pound, or I can cook an actual chicken. Many of the local farmers sell free-range, pastured whole chickens.
I'll admit I was very intimidated at first. Luckily my sister Andrea was in town when I bought my first whole chicken from the folks at Circle B Farms (who used to be at the Farmers@ Firehouse market before they were kicked out.) I had one of those frozen in the freezer, so I thawed it out (starting yesterday morning -- it takes a long time to thaw, FYI) and we cooked it the way Andrea taught me. Here it is. . .
First take out the stuff inside and do with it what you please (I throw it out). Wash that guy inside and out. Rub the whole thing down with olive oil -- even under the skin that is loose. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika and whatever else your heart desires.
Then cook in a roasting pan if you have one (I don't) at 500 for 15 minutes on each side to brown it and then 350 for 30-40minutes until done.
That's the real secret about cooking a whole chicken. It is super easy! In fact, my husband can even do it. And he did today (thanks, Todd).
After you eat all you wish, clean all the remaining meat off that guy (and I say that because you can really see how it resembles the animal it was (is?)) and save it for a myriad of uses.
Then comes the really great part. Broth. Put whatever is left of the carcass in a stock pot (that's why they're called that! who knew!), cover it with water, and add the following cut into large chunks: celery (if you can find it :) ), carrots, 1/2 an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic. I also add whatever herbs I have growing -- right now parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Also some whole peppercorns. After I cook it for a really long time covered on very low heat (you know, like until you want to go to bed), I strain it through a sieve into tupperware containers holding between two and four cups -- leaving extra space for expansion -- and freeze it. Then you can use it in all those great winter soups. I take off the fat after it is frozen before I use it. It is easy to scrape off the top in that hardened state.
And Andrea, I apologize for using the registered trademark "tupperware." I didn't know the generic term.