Dill's fragile and delicate flavor means you can use a lot of the herb without its becoming overpowering. It can take on many different flavors, depending on how much heat it is exposed to: The dill in the cavity of the chicken gently flavors the meat from within, while the herbs on and under the skin are dried out by the heat and take on a mild sweetness. The potatoes and leeks soak up the chicken broth and dill-flavored cooking juices.
Dill is one of Scandinavia's favorite herbs, one that grows willingly in the cool Nordic climate. Historically, it has been important in traditional herbal medicine; dill water was used to soothe children. In fact, the word "dill" is derived from the Old Norse "dilla," meaning "to lull."
There will be some dill butter left over; wrap it well and freeze for up to 6 months.
This recipe demonstrates a somewhat measured roasting technique; the temperature is reduced for the latter part of the roasting, so the result is a juicier, milder-flavored chicken.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 4-pound chicken, preferably free-range and organic, gizzard packet removed (and reserved for another use, if desired)
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 small bunches dill
- 2 medium lemons, cut into quarters, plus about 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest for garnish
- 5 to 6 medium leeks (tough outer layer removed), white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces and thoroughly rinsed
- 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
- 3 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse the chicken and dry with paper towels inside and outside. Rub with a generous amount of salt and pepper on the inside and outside.
Place the softened butter in a medium bowl. Chop enough of the dill to yield 1/2 cup; work it into the butter.
Use your fingers to carefully loosen the skin over the chicken breasts and to work 2 tablespoons of the butter all over the chicken. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the butter between the skin and breast meat. Make sure the skin covers the breast meat. Cover and refrigerate or wrap and freeze the remaining butter.
Fill the cavity of the chicken with 4 lemon quarters and most of the remaining dill. If you want a more beautifully cooked bird, use kitchen twine to truss (tie together) the legs.
Place the chicken breast side up on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan; tuck the wingtips under the bird, if desired. Place the roasting pan on the middle oven rack. Roast for 25 minutes, then transfer the pan to the stove top (off the heat) and use about 1 tablespoon of the dill butter to baste the bird. When most of that butter has melted, place the remaining unmelted butter on the breast of the chicken.
Remove the roasting rack from the pan. Add the leeks, potatoes and halved head of garlic (cut sides up) to the bottom of the roasting pan, then add the broth. Remove the chicken from the rack and place it breast side down directly on top of the vegetables.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 50 to 60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Test for doneness by piercing the thigh with a sharp knife at its thickest point; the juices should run clear. (If there is any trace of pink in the juices, return the chicken to the oven.) Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest, uncovered and breast side up, for 15 minutes.
Check the potatoes for doneness. If they are still firm, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast until the potatoes are fork-tender. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Leave the roasting pan in the oven with the heat turned off while the chicken is resting.
Transfer the potatoes, leeks and roasted garlic to a serving platter. Discard the lemon and dill inside the chicken cavity and carve the chicken at the table, transferring the pieces to the serving platter.
Garnish with the remaining dill and lemon wedges. Sprinkle the lemon zest on top. Serve hot.
Adapted from "Kitchen of Light," by Andreas Viestad (Artisan Books, 2007).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.