I absolutely love cooking with herbs, and with the abundance I have growing on my deck I find myself using them all of the time - chives and parsley to garnish a green bean salad, rosemary and thyme with a little lemon for a compound butter, or throwing a bunch in a sachet to season the water in a pot of simmering fingerling potatoes.
But, tried and true, my favorite use for all of them at the same time is...chicken. This bird just takes on the flavors of any herbs so well that I usually end up slicing up some lemon, chopping some rosemary or basil, and stuff it right under its skin, pop it in the oven to roast up crisp, and serve simply with a green salad and crusty bread. May not sound the most exciting, but simple can be (and 99% of the time is) the most delicious and satisfying.
Looking for some new inspiration, I have been reading and re-reading some of my favorite "go-to" food magazines, cookbooks, and blogs lately, and came across a recipe from Tyler Florence for herb-infused-oil-marinated chicken breasts that sounded so lovely and easy I had to give it a try. Besides, marinating in the herb oil would impart more flavor than just stuffing herbs under its skin, and I had PLENTY of herbs at my disposal.
And, as it turned out, this ended up as one of the top herb roasted chicken dishes I have ever had or created. Juicy, herbaceous, and down right delicious. I obviously had to share.
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in big strips
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Just had to add, as this recipe calls for "smashed" garlic, you don't need to spend wasted time mincing it all up. Grab a clove, use the back of your knife, and pound down on the clove just to break it up a bit.
First things first, get the herb-infused oil going. In a sauce pot, combine the extra virgin olive oil, lemon peel, garlic, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skins of the lemon in strips.
Over very low heat, bring the oil mixture to a simmer, as to not "cook" or "burn" the herbs and aromatics. This technique is a lot like steeping tea.
When the oil starts to simmer or start to slightly bubble, turn off heat and allow to cool completely. I prefer to pour into another bowl, herbs and all, and place in the fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour.
While the oil is cooling, slice the lemon into "paper thin" slices.
Now we have our stuffing ingredients ready! Chives, tarragon, parsley, and lemons.
Begin to stuff the birds with the above herbs and lemons: using your index finger, carefully separate the skin from the breast meat, slowly moving your finger all under the skin to create a cavity to hold the herbs and lemon.
Next up, (I like using a spoon) mix up the chives, tarragon, and parsley and "stuff" under skin in the "cavity", making sure to spread around as much as possible. Shove about 2-3 lemon slices under the skin as well over the herbs.
The herbs smelled sooooo good.
Place all of the chicken breasts in resealable bags and dump in any unused chopped chives, tarragon, and parsley. Pour chilled herb-oil over chicken, seal bag, and place in refrigerator for AT LEAST 8 hours, but preferably overnight. Best to let these chicken breasts take full advantage of their "herb bath" to infuse as much flavor as possible!
24 hours later (in my case), the chicken breasts are ready for some browning and roasting time. Season generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Preheat oven to 375*F. Heat up a saute pan over medium high heat with a little olive oil. Sear breasts, skin side down, for about 7 minutes, crisping up the skin and browning slightly. Remove from pan and place on foil lined cookie sheet. Repeat with all chicken breasts.
Roast chicken breasts for 35-40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads at least 160*F. Remove cookie sheet from oven and "tent" chicken with foil for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to rest - the chicken will continue to cook slightly.
In this evening's case, I served the chicken with some sautéed French green beans with goat cheese and caramelized onions and corn soufflé. The chicken was so moist and extra flavorful from the herb oil plus the extra herbs under the skin, plus the skin was super crispy from both browning and roasting. Though the herb oil is an extra step, it is totally worth it in the end. This is a great year round chicken recipe that would also be fantastic with a whole bird on a rotisserie or simply cooked on a BBQ. Thanks to Tyler Florence for the inspiration for another tried and true classic recipe for my repertoire.