Julia Child often commented that a cook’s ability is determined by how perfectly he or she roasts a chicken. She was a believer in trussing the bird to preserve its juices, as well as for presentation. Very few people are prepared to make the effort to truss their chicken, so this recipe focuses more on the timing and basting of the bird during the roast. Locally produced free-range chickens are generally available at specialty grocery stores or your local farmers’ market. For simplicity, the root vegetables accompanying this dish can be placed in the same pan as the chicken, but the higher moisture content may prevent the chicken from developing a crispy skin. I suggest cooking them separately to achieve the ultimate roast.
Rinse chicken well under cold water and pat dry with a clean towel. Rub entire bird, including the internal cavity, with soft butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and fill the cavity with fresh herbs. The herbs can also be chopped, added to the butter and rubbed over the skin if desired.
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). It is essential to roast your chicken on an elevated roasting rack. This allows the pan drippings to fall away from the skin and also allows hot air to flow around the body. Roast, breast side up, for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F (180°C) and continue roasting for a further 15 minutes. At this point carefully flip the chicken over so the backbone is facing the top of the oven. Roast for another 15 minutes, basting as often as possible. When the chicken has been in the oven for a total of 45 minutes, flip it back over so the breast side is facing up again. Continue roasting for 30 to 45 minutes or until an internal thermometer reads 170 to 175°F (75 to 80°C). A bird of 4 pounds should take about 75 to 90 minutes total.
Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. (Cooking the potatoes first allows them to be soft inside but crisp and golden outside.) Cut potatoes into wedges and place in a bowl with all other ingredients. Gently toss together and place on a non-stick roasting tray. Roast at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serves 4 to 6