On a cold winter night, few things are as comforting as a good roast chicken. It's almost worth making one just for the aroma that fills the house.
Italians don't eat nearly as much chicken as Americans do and they never mix it with pasta. (I'm looking at you, Olive Garden.) Most often Italians get chicken from a rosticceria where it's roasted on a spit and seasoned with a mix of dried or fresh herbs including garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano. When fresh herbs are unavailable, a pinch, a can of Ariosto is an excellent alternative.
Stefania at Cerini Coffee & Gifts introduced me to this magical yellow and red container whose contents smell just like an Italian rosticceria. The herb blend originated in a small restaurant in Emilia-Romagna that specialized in roasted meats. At the end of the meal, it became customary for guests to receive a small bag of herbs to take home. When it was decided to sell the blend, the new company was named for the Renaissance poet Ludovico Ariosto whose birthplace was nearby. I love how Italians are always feasting on history.
I make my own roast chicken in a regular gas oven with a halved lemon stuffed inside and a generous coating of Ariosto mix on the outside. To get a crispy skin without spit roasting, I blast it with high heat for the first 30 minutes of cooking. But most essential is an organic chicken which can be found for an excellent price at Vincent's Meat Market. The quality of Peter's chickens are so far superior to anything you can buy at a grocery store that you'll forever be spoiled.
Italian Roast Chicken
1 5- to 6-pound organic chicken
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half along the top
2 tablespoons of Ariosto per Carni
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat the outside dry. (Make sure the giblets are all removed. Often they are inside the chicken in a small plastic bag.) Place it in a large roasting pan. Stuff the inside with the bunch of rosemary, the garlic and both halves of the lemon. Pour the olive oil over the top of the chicken, coating the whole bird, then use your fingers to sprinkle the Ariosto mix over the entire surface. Tie the legs together with butchers twine and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.
Roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 400 degrees for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh.