This is perhaps my favorite chicken dish ever– and easy, with no basting required. The touch of sweetness that comes from wine vinegar combined with the fat from the chicken and in the glaze make an incredible combination and keep the skin from drying out.
I don’t use a tart vinegar here–instead I had a gift bottle of Moscato–think Italian Moscatel, a worthy investment; even a fancy 12-year-old bottle of Moscatel vinegar, which will last forever, can be ordered on Amazon for $16. Or use Sherry vinegar. One of the easiest ways to improve your cooking and your health is to have a selection of spices and a few new vinegars to work with. Most of my dishes get a hit of vinegar or lemon at the end to brighten them up.
Note: All of the ingredients, except for the vinegar and the dried chives can be purchased at Trader Joe’s. You can also try just mixing the vinegars you have on hand. Ballard Market (Town and Country) and PCC Natural Markets carry a fine selection of vinegars. Sherry vinegar is available at both stores for about $7.00. I get my dried chives at PCC in bulk section–they keep at least a year and 1-2 cups of them, even organic, will cost under $2.
The back of this chicken is brushed with equal parts olive oil, butter, and the vinegar (about 1 ½ tablespoons of each which is plenty to really coat all the skin) before it goes into a 425 degree oven. Once the caramel-colored “glaze” is brushed on, salt your bird and throw on a handful of dried chives. You can use other dried herbs but at this high temperature tiny bits of small herbs may burn.
It takes less than an hour in the oven to cook at the high heat, after removing the backbone for a quicker roasting time and easier slicing. Pull your chicken out of the oven and add a cup of broth to the bottom of the pan, stirring to incorporate the savory and sweet flavors of the chicken and glaze with the vegetable and apple slices.
Added bonus: When you remove the backbone you get a perfectly intact ½ chicken to wrap and save for the second night with the remaining sauce. This dish will taste even better night two–something you can’t say about every leftover chicken!
Removing the backbone (2 minutes): Take chicken from packaging, turn it over and beginning at the bottom end, slice (or cut with shears) down the right side of the backbone (if you are right-handed; start on the left side if you are left handed). I hold the tail flap with my left hand to secure the bird in place and cut downward with my right; turn the bird around and repeat the process until the backbone is removed. ( A butcher would also be happy to do this for you and it is really easy with chicken shears–available for about $12 at Crate and Barrel.)
Set the chicken on its back to let it warm up a bit at room temperature–having the cavity open and exposed to air brings up the temperature more quickly.
Turn oven to 425-450 (but no higher).
Slice the fennel, onions, and green apples distributing them in the bottom of the skillet or roasting pan. If you have a fennel bulb that includes the fronds you may want to save them as a garnish and use when plating or add to the pan in the last 5-10 minutes of roasting–they are delicate and will shrivel. Otherwise you can add them around the edge of the chicken at the beginning once the bird is in the pan.
Turn the chicken over and nestle in the middle of the slices, back side up. I cradle the bird, pushing the sides together to create roundness so that the chicken sits up as high as one that has not had a backbone removed. It looks prettier than a flat chicken. I tuck the severed backbone under or around the side of the chicken so it also get roasted. The cooked backbone will then go directly into my freezer for making bone broth later and not require an additional cook time.
Mix the 1.5 Tblsp butter (melt it), with the olive oil and vinegar and brush all over the skin. I use a silicone brush because the bristles don’t fall out–all stores sell them now. Sprinkle with salt and cover with the the dried chives. Place on the lower middle rack of your oven (mine has six levels to place the racks and I use the 3rd from the bottom); if you set the pan in too high the top of the chicken will become overly brown before it has completely cooked.
Check at 45-50 minutes by wiggling the leg to see if it moves easily and the juices run clear. Chicken needs to be at 165 degrees in the breast to be fully cooked. In my oven it takes about 50-55 minutes.
Remove the chicken from oven leaving it in the pan for a few minutes to rest. Pour the broth around the sides of the chicken and loosen the vegetables and the drippings from the bottom of the pan thus making a sauce. Once the chicken has been removed from the skillet or pan you can more easily finish stirring the sauce together. Serve on the side or over the chicken if you are doing the carving and plating from the kitchen.