Alright friends. I’m waiting for this toasty late summer weather to make way for the soft oranges and yellows that signal fall is here! My favorite season by far of all the seasons. Honestly, I could bore you with lists and lists of my favorites, but I’ll be merciful. You don’t need to hear for the millionth time that crisp apples, brisk jacket weather, and all of the cinnamon things you can imagine are just the best. Oops looks like that makes it a million and one. At least I didn’t throw pumpkin spice lattes in there (which, by the way, are absolutely revolting).
Well just because I don’t have the fall weather quite yet doesn’t mean that I can’t pretend I’m having a fabulous fall dinner party (these sorts of things actually go on in my mind). And what makes the best dinner party? Roast chicken! Honestly it’s the easiest thing to prepare that always ends up being the most impressive. Even when you hear someone say “roast chicken”, I bet you get so excited and your mouth starts watering. Also I don’t know about you, but roast chicken just makes me feel cozy which automatically signals feelings of fall.
Roast chicken also makes me think of something more sinister, however. Dun dun dun.
Salmonella. Campylobacter. These don’t sound very fun, do they? Definitely not. Both of these scary-big words are the genus names of foodborne pathogenic bacteria that are extremely prevalent on poultry. Basically that means that both of these guys are part of a class of microbes that leave you struggling in the bathroom for hours after eating that questionable forkful of food.
Salmonella (almost always species enterica) causes Salmonellosis which leads to rather unpleasant gastrointestinal problems. That is just a nice way of saying vomiting and diarrhea. It can show up in as little as 8 hours and last for as long as 3 days. And guess what? Salmonellosis is the leading cause of foodborne disease-related death in the US! Pretty bad.
Now let’s talk about Campylobacter (affectionately called Campy). Campylobacter (usually species jejuni or coli) causes Campylobacterosis which also shows itself in the form of tummy troubles. Though Campylobacterosis is less deadly than Salmonellosis, it causes its fair share of illness. It shows up around 2 days after consumption, so get ready for that Debbie downer of a surprise. Together, Salmonella and Campylobacter cause around 2 million foodborne illnesses in the US annually!
So now that you’re a bit freaked out, let’s scare you even more. When you go to wash that raw chicken fresh from the package, you need to stop right there. Don’t touch that faucet. Campylobacter and Salmonella are present in huge quantities on your raw chicken. When you spray water onto that chicken, you could potentially be spreading whatever is on that chicken up to three feet away from your sink. This is not chicken juice that you think you’re controlling. You won’t be able to see the damage you’re doing. Even worse? Salmonella and Campylobacter grow extremely well in warm temperatures commonly found in your kitchen. That means your kitchen is a minefield of illness. What happens when you set an apple down on your countertop the next day? Take a bite at your own risk.
Yep now you’re terrified. Or you think I’m crazy and paranoid. The best rule of thumb to live by is to pat your chicken dry, transfer it straight to your cooking vessel, and cook it to 165⁰F. Easy as that.
Okay I’m done scaring you. Here’s the chicken. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. It’s lemony and herby, and honestly just tastes like a lovely roast chicken. Nothing fancy. Never dry. Potatoes are roasted alongside the bird, so you’ve got two parts of your meal right here. Celebrate fall with me and comfort yourself! Also, please, do not wash your raw chicken!
Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken and Potatoes
Adapted from Apples for Jam
1 3 ½ pound-4 pound chicken
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
10 thyme sprigs
2-2 ½ pounds baby gold potatoes, rinsed
Juice of 2 lemons
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup water
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 400⁰F. Remove giblets from chicken, pat dry with paper towels, and place breast-side-down in a large roasting pan—preferably Dutch oven.
- Put a few pinches of salt, a garlic clove, a bay leaf, and about 3 thyme sprigs in the interior of the chicken cavity. Place the prepped potatoes and remaining garlic around the chicken. Pour the lemon juice on top of everything.
- Rub the skin of the chicken with the softened butter and dot the rest on top of the potatoes. Tuck the remaining bay leaves and thyme sprigs into the potatoes. Sprinkle the chicken and potatoes generously with several pinches of kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Pour 1 cup water around the outside of the potatoes. If using a Dutch oven, put the lid on top of the dish to help ensure a moist bird. Roast for 1 hour, removing the Dutch oven lid halfway through, if using.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven and flip the chicken over. Shuffle the potatoes around and spoon the pan juices over everything. Sprinkle some salt over this new side of the chicken and return, uncovered, to the oven for 15 minutes.
- Shuffle the potatoes around gently and continue to cook until golden brown all over, and the internal temperature reaches 165⁰F, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter and arrange the potatoes and herbs around it. Keep warm.
- Put the roasting pan with cooking juices over medium heat with the whipping cream. Scrape up the bits stuck to the pan with a whisk or spoon while stirring. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, until together and very slightly thickened. Transfer gravy to boat for individual service or pour over chicken immediately.
- Serve right away and enjoy!