As I mentioned in my post about Rome, Italy has given me the best (Western) roast chicken experience I've ever had. Italy's roast chicken or "pollo arrosto" is aromatic, well-seasoned, tender, moist and oh so more-ish.
So far, this recipe is the closest I've come to replicating the roast chicken I had in Rome and Florence. One thing I learned from experimenting is you don't get much flavour into the chicken by just seasoning the skin. If you season the skin, that's all you really do- season the skin. If you want to season the meat, then you have to go under the skin and put the seasoning on the meat. There are a lot of videos online showing you how to place seasoning under the skin.
I tried a simpler version by not brining and stuffing the chicken with onions and celery but the meat wasn't as moist or flavoursome. I haven't, however, tried to just stuff the chicken without brining it to see if that was good enough. The reason being it has only been over a week since we got back from Italy and I've already made roast chicken a few times. I don't think my husband and I can eat any more roast chicken for the next while or we'd grow feathers. I will of course revise the recipe if I come up with another version but I think this one will be pretty hard to beat. Let me know how you go with this recipe.
1.5 kg chicken, preferably free-range
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T chopped fresh sage
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, sliced into 12 lenghtwise wedges
1/8 c olive oil
15 g sea salt (using 8-10 grams of salt per kg of chicken as a guide)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c sea salt for brining
Place 1/4 c salt in stock pot and add 5 litres of cold water. Stir until salt has dissolved. Add chicken making sure it is completely submerged. Cover and place in refrigerator for 1.5 hours, or more if you like. Drain, pat dry and leave chicken out at room temperature for about half an hour before placing it in the oven.
Preheat oven to 225°C.
Juice lemon wedges but only up until they're 80% dry. Discard seeds. Set aside juice.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper under the skin and inside the cavity, leaving aside some salt to use on the skin once we've stuffed the chicken. Mix the herbs and garlic together and rub under the skin and inside the cavity. Place 8 of the lemon wedges under the skin and the rest inside the cavity. Place onions and celery inside the cavity and truss the legs with kitchen twine to make sure the stuffing stays in place. Add reserved lemon juice by pouring into neck cavity. Rub olive oil all over the skin then season with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken on a roasting pan, breast side up. Put on middle shelf of oven and roast for 15 minutes until skin is golden brown. Turn heat down to 170°C and move roasting pan to bottom shelf. Cook for 1.5 hours or until done. Using a meat thermometer, measure the temperature at the centre of the thickest part of the breast and thighs. The meat is cooked when it has reached 75°C. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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