If you are what you eat and you don’t know what you’re eating, do you know who you are? – Claude Fischler
As you may have already guessed, there is really no such thing as a baby turkey, or at least people don’t serve it. The story behind the phrase goes back to my childhood when I would persistently ask my mother to cook turkey for Thanksgiving. I grew up in a semi-traditional/non-traditional Chinese American family, so we would have Chinese food on most days, with occasional instances of American meals on others. My annual requests for turkey turned into a compromise of having “baby” turkey, also known as chicken. I was completely gullible. When I finally discovered the truth, it wasn’t as devastating as a child learning the truth about Santa or the Tooth Fairy.
This year, I decided to roast a “baby” turkey for a variety of reasons. First off, I was making a small dinner, so it did not make environmental or economical sense to roast a minimum 8 pound bird that could feed way more people than necessary. Scaling down is not a bad thing sometimes. Secondly, after reading articles For The Love of Turkeys and How Your Thanksgiving Turkey Gets Made about mass turkey production in the United States, I felt slightly better about purchasing a free-range, organic chicken. Lastly, if I were to have purchased a turkey, I may have seriously considered splurging on a Heritage Foods turkey, where independent farmers humanely raise turkeys and promote turkey conservation.
Herb Roasted Chicken (“Baby” Turkey) Recipe
Recipe adapted from Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus by Giada De Laurentiis
Preparation Time: approximately 2 hours (~1 hour in the oven, remainder is preparation/cooling)
- 1 whole chicken (approximately 4 pounds)
- 1 orange, cut into wedges
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 4 fresh sage sprigs
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Preheat: Position the rack in the lowest third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
- Prepare: Remove anything in the cavity of the chicken, if any (save it for stock later!). Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with towels. Place the chicken on a roasting pan.
- Season: Lightly season the cavity with salt and pepper. Place half of the orange, lemon, onion wedges, and 2 sprigs of each fresh herb in the cavity; reserve remaining wedges and sprigs. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together to hold the shape of the chicken and to secure the seasonings. Repeat with the wings. Gently lift the chicken skin between the breast meat and thighs. Stir butter, herbes de Provence, oil, and 1 teaspoon of each the salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the butter melts (or microwave in a bowl for 15 seconds). Rub the seasoning mixture all over the chicken and between the breast meat, thighs, and skin.
- Roast: Place the chicken in the oven for approximately 60-70 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees-175 degrees or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer.
- Rest: Once chicken is removed from the oven, transfer to a platter. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes to allow the juices to distribute and the temperature to even out. Remove twine and garnish platter with remaining herbs and lemon and orange wedges.
- Roasting pan
- Kitchen twine
- Small saucepan or microwavable bowl
- Meat thermometer
- Gravy goes well with roasted chicken, but it’s completely optional. Ideas can be found here, or in the original recipe link (although I would scale down on the volume). Alternatively, I like to drizzle lemon juice over my chicken.
- To use every part of the chicken, make chicken stock! The same process applies whether it’s turkey or chicken. If you don’t plan on making stock right away, store the carcass in the freezer in a zip-lock bag.
- When serving, I am not too graceful at carving chicken at the dinner table, so I normally choose to cut/slice on my cutting board and then serve the ready-to-eat chicken on a platter. If you don’t have a real carving knife, don’t worry – I don’t either. I basically rely on my Santoku knife for almost everything.
I hope you enjoy this simple variation. Every time that I prepare this recipe, the chicken turns out crisp on the exterior, with juicy and flavorful meat for both white and dark portions. It really is delightful any time of the year; remember, chickens are not seasonal like pumpkins! It is rather lengthy to prepare for a weeknight meal, but it makes for a nice dinner on the weekend.