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My Attempt at Julia Child's Roasted Herb Chicken

Jan 30, 2014

Over the six years I've been hosting a dinner club, I've mastered a handful of recipes, invented a couple of hits, and learned that a slow cooker is well worth the amount of space it takes up in a tiny apartment. I use the Betty Crocker and Allrecipes Dinner Spinner apps regularly, and I have a host of cookbooks that...well... have been taking up a ton of room on my bookshelves collecting dust.

After Julie & Julia came out a few years ago, my mother became obsessed and bought every Julia Child cookbook she could get her hands on. She came to DC and insisted, for the first time in all the years I'd lived here, that we do something touristy: Go see Julia Child's kitchen at the American History Museum.

Now, I love museums and enjoyed the movie, so of course I was enthusiastic about this. However, Mama may have misinterpreted my fervor for pop culture as a mutual passion for all things Julia. In the following months, she purchased and had mailed to me several of Julia's cookbooks, including one that was signed (don't want to know how much that put her back), and I proceeded to use them as decorative side table lamp boosters. 


Funny things happen when you push forward into your 30s. 

  • Your body betrays you in all kinds of ways, forcing you to finally learn what diet and exercise works best for you, causing you to be in the best shape of your life.
  • Chasing after a dream job becomes less important than making an impact in the one you find yourself in, and before you know it you're being promoted and praised and feeling more confident than you ever thought possible.
  • You've got a pah-retttty nice paycheck coming in and finally have some sort of understanding of budgeting and finances, and suddenly you realize you've been managing yours atrociously and are basically broke. 
That last one is a real kick in the hay. (I think that's what I meant to say.)

My point is, in your 30s you actually start growing up. For me, the marker of adulthood was learning how to cook a whole chicken because it's soooooooooo much stinkin' cheaper than buying it already skinned and filleted, and man you get more food out of it.

This has meant a lot of chicken and dumplings this winter, and that's about it, because I don't know how else to cook it.

It was my turn to host dinner club this week, and with chicken in mind I decided, in fear and trembling, to try a complicated, detailed, no short-cuts-allowed Julia Child roasted chicken recipe.

I'm not gonna lie -- a huge deciding factor in following this recipe was based on wanting to use the wrought iron cookbook stand I found at Ross for $5 recently. 


·         1 fine, fresh 3 1/2 pound chicken
·         A whole chicken already cut up because I was scared (shredding boiled chicken is one thing; carving one is a whole other enchilada) and an extra pack of legs because I always overcompensate; not positive it was "fine" but I got it at Trader Joe's so
·         Salt and pepper
·         Salt and pepper (easy!)
·         6 fresh sage leaves (or 4 sprigs of fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence)
·         Whatever dried herbs I could find in my cabinet (what exactly are herbes de Provence?)
·         1 large lemon, cut in 1/4-inch slices
·         2 lemons because the ones I got weren't large, I didn't think; cut as best I could
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
·         2 tablespoons salted butter (I've never understood the big difference) zapped in the microwave for 15 seconds
·         2/3 cup mixed roughly chopped carrots and onions
·         About three cups of carrots and onions, whoops

Special Equipment

  • A roasting pan 2 inches deep
·         Like a baking dish?
  • A V-shaped roasting rack
·         I don’t even know how that would work
  • A pastry brush for basting
·       Totally missed this one; all I saw was “basting” and I got really excited about using my baster for the first time ever
  • A board or platter for resting and carving
·      No need because I’m clearly smarter than Julia Child and got it already carved
  • Cotton kitchen twine
·         See previous entry

Prepare the Chicken

·         Set the rack on the lower middle level and preheat the oven to 425°F
·         Easy
·         Rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out, under hot water, then dry it with paper towels. Remove any lumps of fat from inside the cavity near the tail opening
·         Rinsed but kind of grossed out by it so I tossed it around and then dried it quickly with a paper towel; fat will cook off, right?
·         To make carving easier, remove the wishbone. Lift the flap of neck skin and insert a thin, sharp knife into each end of the breast; then slice diagonally along both sides of the wishbone. Use your finger and thumb to loose the bone, pry it out at the top, and pull it down. If it breaks, carefully wiggle out the pieces
·         Didn’t bother
·         Trim the small bony protrusions, or "nubbins," from the wing tip joint. Then fold the wings up against the breast, where they will be held in place by the V-rack
·         Gross, no thanks

 Salt and pepper the cavity
     Sprinkled salt and pepper all over; I don’t think that’s the cavity, because the cavity is the inside, right? I figured it would be fine.

Stuff it with the sage leaves
Sprinkled herbs de My Cabinet all over  

Stuff it with 3 or 4 thick slices of lemon; give the slices a squeeze as you put them in

Squeezed sliced lemons, which is harder to do than it sounds, all over everything and then shoved them in between chicken pieces

Massage the butter over the entire chicken skin, including undersides, then salt generously.

(Note: Julia prefaces this recipe saying to give the chicken a really good butter massage because she likes doing it and she thinks the chicken enjoys it as well.)
Slathered and minimally rubbed raw chicken until I was thoroughly grossed out and then struggled to wash hands without getting salmonella everywhere but probably infected all of kitchen anyway

Roast the Chicken

·         Set the roasting pan in the oven.
·         After 15 minutes, lower heat to 350°F.
·         When the chicken is beginning to brown rapidly, baste with accumulated pan juices.
·         Easy
·         Okay
·         Basted with turkey baster which was really fun. I highly recommend it.

Roast for an hour, adding the onions and carrots after 30 minutes and basting several times.

Used my Magic Chopper because I hate chopping vegetables almost as much as I hate cleaning, and I got a little carried away and chopped too much of everything.

While that was roasting away, I made this Basmati Rice Medley from Trader Joe's that my mother recommended. I cooked it in beef broth to give it some extra flavor and added some brown rice because, as I mentioned earlier, I always overcompensate.


Soooo...this is where I stopped reading the recipe. People were arriving and needed to get in the kitchen to cut bread, make a salad, put a dessert in the fridge...and I figured once the timer went off we'd be good to go.

We sat down to eat and everyone raved about how good the chicken was.

"It's Julia Child's recipe," I boasted. "Lots of butter, y'all!"

"What kind of wine did you use?" the eldest and best cook of our bunch asked.

"Wine?" I said, puzzled.

"Julia doesn't make anything without wine," she said, looking suspicious.

I grabbed the cookbook to prove her wrong, and here's what I found:

"While the chicken is resting, make the deglazing sauce in the roasting pan."

Deglazing sauce??

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/3 cup dry white French vermouth or dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup or more chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter get the picture. The chicken was still really tasty, but I have a long way to go before I master French cooking. 

I learned one, big lesson though:

Bon app├ętit!


  1. This was excellent. Sounds a lot like when I cook.

  2. Martha Nance PearceThu Jan 30, 04:46:00 PM

    Well, I loved that! I am smiling so big right now! I think, no, I know Julia would be so happy! You took her recipe and made it your own. That is what cooking is all about! Really, really makes me happy! (and I totally agree with Julia about the sauces!)

  3. Yaaaay! I was hoping you'd be pleased. :)

  4. As long as no one gets sick we're good, right?

  5. 8littlepaws.wordpress.comThu Jan 30, 09:31:00 PM

    I bet your chicken was still delicious even without the sauce!

    I've dealt with whole birds before--you can totally do it. You might want to buy some disposable latex gloves so you can wear them while touching the bird and take them off when you are done with the raw meat portion of the prep. The whole chicken recipe I really like, and is insanely easy, is
    To make it even more indulgent and wonderful, I'll use half milk and half cream.

  6. I admit that I am somewhat obsessed with Julia Child too. I even listened to her whole biography (25.5 hours!) on cd during my long work commute. I love that she's still teaching young women how to cook!

  7. WOW! I'll have to look for that on Audible. I think it would be worth the listen!