Colonial Kitchen | Roasted Chicken + Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme

Every time I make this gorgeous meal, Jill always says, "Time to eat colonial style!" 

It reminds me so much of a meal from another time, perhaps closer to pioneers who crossed over to the west. It looks so rustic and wholesome, it's hard not to imagine the people who were here before us enjoying a cooked chicken and potatoes, roasted over a fire. I love this recipe because I get to pull out my herbs and my herb scissors, plucking and cutting and dressing our bird. It just feels right, and I start to connect with a time far from my own. You do know that I write Colonial Kitchen just so I can talk about Outlander? I figured you did! Ha! I am pretty sure Claire and Jamie enjoyed a few roast chickens covered in herbs in their time. How did the colonists cook meat?

Though not uncommon, it was fairly rare to find an early colonist family eating a chicken. They were too precious to eat at that time - they produced eggs and made much more sense to keep for that purpose. The same goes for other domesticated animals that traveled on the ships to America. Cows were kept to provide milk, though pigs were obviously eaten. If there was any meat on the table, it was wild game and fowl. Those were often the main courses all throughout the colonies, though not as popular in New England. The New Englanders enjoyed seafood and bean dishes. Farther south, in the Virginia colonies, they were eating all sorts of meat and roasting them on a spit. It was already popular in the 18th century to eat fricassees and fried chicken. Isn't that amazing? So early in southern history was fried chicken being made. I love it. While my ancestors, who were New Englanders, were probably not eating many roast chickens, I still find that this dish brings me to think of them.

I think it is because of the realness of the meat that we now eat. We've changed our perspective on where our meat comes from, how it is raised, and how it is killed. Now that we have our own chickens, it seems even more precious to purchase our meat birds from farms that raise them in the most natural way possible. Meat should come from somewhere that is close to home. If you can grow it yourself, that's probably the best way. If not, find a farmer who grows meat raised on the proper feed for that particular animal's diet, without antibiotics, and without added growth hormones. We now purchase our chicken from an Amish farm down the road, who is not certified organic, but raises her chickens without any additives and on the proper feed. They free range, and we get to see them walking around when we arrive to pick ours up. It's really just a game changer! We're also getting chickens from our friends, Wild Farm, which is located in Parnell, Iowa. You can find their address and contact information on our Farms page!

This recipe is incredibly simple. I have adapted it from a few different sources to my own liking, one of those being the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook - one of my very favorites! If you have not checked out the Beekman Boys, please do. We are huge fans!

INGREDIENTS | 

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 - 4 lbs 
  • 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Sea Salt 
  • Coarse Ground Pepper
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 lemon
  • Butter for basting

RECIPE | 

  • Preheat your oven to 425. Place a cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.
  • While you wait, chop your potatoes and dress your chicken. In small dish, combine about 2 tablespoons each of sea salt and pepper in small dish. Rub down your chicken, all over the outside, in the creases and underneath. You'll be cooking her breast-side up! Don't forget to also rub salt and pepper underneath the skin. Yes - just trust me. It's really easy, but be gentle. With our chickens, they come with neck in tact and the skin is actually much thicker than chickens I've bought at the store. There are usually giblets and the heart inside. Those can be kept and frozen for stock. You'll want to find a place near the cavity of the chicken where you can slide your hand underneath the skin. There is usually a place near the thigh where you can separate the thin membranes attaching the skin to the muscle. If not, just slice in a little with a sharp knife. 
  • With your finger, slide your way underneath the skin and rub down the entire breasts and thighs of the chicken with salt and pepper. Taking 3 sprigs of rosemary and 3 sprigs of thyme, tuck them under the skin as well. 
  • Sprinkle the outside of the chicken some of the fresh herbs, and place the rest inside the cavity. 
  • Pierce the lemon all over with a fork and put it inside the cavity as well. Place 2-3 cloves of garlic inside.
  • Place the chicken in the cast iron skillet. Sprinkle your potatoes and the rest of the garlic around the chicken. Brush the skin with melted butter. Sometimes I like to add a green vegetable like green beans or asparagus. If you do add these, wait until about 15 minutes before the chicken is finished roasting.
  • Roast for 50-60 minutes. If you have a smaller chicken, around 3 pounds, then start at 45 minutes. Add 10 minutes to every pound added. My chickens are usually 4.5 to 5 pounds, so I roast them for an hour. 
  • Every 20 minutes, brush with more melted butter.
  • To check if your chicken is finished, insert a meat thermometer into the thigh without touching bone and check to see if it registers 165 degrees F. I also will separate a thigh to check if the meat is still red near the bone. If it is white or a really light pink and a little juicy, then it is just perfect.

Personally, I like the green of the herbs before it goes in, but I suppose the after is just as good. It tastes much better, that's for sure. Whenever I make this dish, the house smells so divine. I feel like a true homesteader when I cook this, and it's probably the simplest dish I make on the regular. All I have to do is chop up some veggies, rub down a chicken, and pop it in the oven. It's a perfectly slow and simple meal! I highly recommend, especially with a locally raised chicken. There is truly nothing better. I can say, wholeheartedly, then whenever we make this I feel like I didn't even eat afterwards. There's no heaviness to my gut our feeling of greasiness. I know that when I've eaten rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, I feel like crap afterwards. Try this!!!

xoxo Kayla