The Vegetarian's Guide to Cooking... An Entire Roast Chicken

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. It is the 2nd in a series of posts written for vegetarians looking to cook the occasional meat dish for their carnivorous family. You can read the first post, here. (Thanks, Mom!)
Since I don’t eat meat, I usually bring a vegetarian meal when helping out a sick or recuperating friend. But recently, a friend asked for a chicken dish, so I decided to resurrect my tried and true favorite roast chicken recipe from our meat eating days. It felt really weird buying whole chickens—I haven’t bought any in at least 6 years—but I realized as I put the two organic, pasture raised birds in my cart that buying ethically raised chickens supports a farmer who has chosen to raise his/her chickens sustainably and ethically—and that’s a good thing.

Roasted chicken is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook chicken. It is a great company meal, or perfect just for the family. Ina Garten’s roast chicken is perfect every time. That’s why she calls it Perfect Roast Chicken! I modified the recipe a little and increased it to two chickens so you will have enough to feed your family and some left overs. If you roast two chickens, you need a large roasting pan, as the chickens will lay sideways in the pan. By roasting the vegetables with the chicken, you get a one-dish meal!

Perfect Roast Chicken 
(adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

- 2 roasting chickens (about 5-6 pounds each)
- salt and pepper
- 2 large bunches of thyme plus extra for the vegetables
- 2 lemons (preferably Meyer) cut in half
- 2 heads of garlic, cut in half crosswise
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
- 2 onions cut into thick wedges
- 5 large carrots, cut into 2 inch hunks
- 2 heads fennel, cut into wedges
- 2 parsnips, cut into 2-inch hunks
- 8 small new potatoes (if they are large, use fewer and cut them in half or quarters)

Preheat oven to 425. Remove giblets from cavity of chickens and rinse inside and out. Remove extra fat (very important!!) and pat dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chickens and stuff with the lemons, garlic, and thyme (evenly distribute between the two birds). Brush outside of chickens with butter or olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Put vegetables in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper and thyme. Place chickens on top of vegetables, sideways.
Roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove chickens and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil, letting rest about 15 or 20 minutes. Throw out the lemons, but squish out the garlic and add to the vegetables.
Carve chicken and serve with vegetables.
Note: If you want to make gravy, omit all vegetables except the onion. Then you can make a traditional gravy using the pan drippings and chicken broth.