I used to shy away from roasting a whole chicken because it would always come out dry or lacking seasoning. After reading through my grilling cookbook, I noticed how they would use the brine method to moisten and flavor different meats. I had tried it with pork chops and chicken wings but never with a whole chicken, until this recipe. Cooking a whole chicken is more economical when cooking for a family and friends. There are a few extra steps to this recipe and you will want to brine the chicken for a full day, but the result is a moist and seasoned (all the way through) chicken dinner.
To make the brine, you will need a storage container that can fit the whole chicken with an airtight lid. Combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a bowl or pitcher. With a large knife, cut the breast bone down the center of chicken, so it lays flat. This will help during the browning of the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the storage container. Pour brine over chicken, making sure chicken is fully immersed in the brine. I always brine it with the breast sides down. Brine the chicken for at least 24 hours.
Combine all of the ingredients for the cilantro sauce into the blender. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt. Store in an airtight storage container and keep chilled until ready to use.
When you are ready to prepare the chicken, remove it from the brine and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the butter into slices and bring out the cilantro sauce. Preheat a large, heavy pan to medium/high heat, adding a 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully pull the skin of the chicken breast away from the meat to create a pocket. Add the pats of butter and 1/3 of the cilantro sauce under the skin.
Preheat 4 tablespoons of olive oil to medium/high heat for a few minutes. Carefully transfer chicken (breast side down) into hot pan and brown for a few minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Transfer chicken to a shallow roasting pan and then into the oven.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes. Chop all of your veggies into 1-inch pieces. After the 20 minutes is up, remove the chicken from oven. Season the vegetables with lemon pepper, thyme, salt, and olive oil, add to the roasting pan. Take a little of the cilantro sauce and baste the chicken all over the exposed areas. Return to oven and continue roasting for another 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken breast is 165ºF. Remove from oven and let the chicken rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
After roasting, I removed the skin from the chicken breast. Serve the chicken with roasted veggies and extra cilantro sauce.
When using the cilantro sauce, make sure you separate the sauce the you will be adding to the raw chicken, so you don’t contaminate the whole batch. On this day, I served the chicken with some asparagus wrapped in bacon. They can be prepared and baked at the same time chicken is cooking. Cook until bacon gets slightly crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes.