We always make two chickens when we have Sunday chicken — it seems like a lot, and it is, but it means that a) you’ll be prepared for unexpected guests; and b) you’ll have enough leftovers to make several lunches, or to pop into a whole second dinner (chicken pot pie, anyone?). I also save the carcasses for making homemade chicken stock, so nothing goes to waste.
2 whole roasting chickens, approximately 4-5 pounds each
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced, or 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste (remember to be relatively generous with the seasoning — you’re salting and peppering two whole chickens)
Optional: Herbs — fresh or dried — any combination you like. We often like dried herbs de provence in the wintertime; for fresh herbs, rosemary, thyme, parsley, fennel, and even basil or dill can be used. You’ll need a few tablespoons of minced fresh herbs, or one tablespoon of dried.
Something to stuff into the cavities of the birds — we usually quarter a lemon, an orange, and a whole onion (don’t bother peeling anything), and stuff the cavities with a mixture of the fruits and onion.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove giblets from the cavities of the chickens. Rinse inside and out with cold water, then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place them breast-up in a large roasting pan (or two smaller pans, if you don’t have a big one).
In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs. I run my fingers between the skin and the meat of the chicken to loosen it, then rub half of the butter mixture under the chicken skins and half over the top of the chickens — the butter on the meat itself, locked under the skin, keeps the meat really juicy and flavors it nicely. Rubbing herb butter over the skins browns them well and makes the skin nice and crisp.
Stuff the cavities of the chickens with the lemons, oranges, and onions. Roast the chickens at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half, depending on the size of the birds. The way I figure time for this is to take the average weight of one of the chickens (say, 4.5 lbs) and calculate 20 minutes per pound (that would be 90 minutes for a 4.5 lb chicken). Then, because I’m roasting two chickens together, I add about 10-15 additional minutes onto the cooking time — making it about an hour and 40 minutes for two 4.5 lb chickens. After cooking, let the chickens rest on the countertop, covered with foil, for about 15 minutes prior to carving.