Compound butters are perfect for infusing lean meats such as chicken, guinea hen, or turkey with a little extra fat and flavour. Tucked under the skin, they baste the bird as it roasts, keeping its meat juicy and flavorful and ensuring golden, crispy skin. We especially like this verdant compound butter made with stinging nettles. If you enjoy foraging for your food, you will find nettles grow abundantly in the wild. If you are less hands-on when it comes to gathering your supper ingredients, you can often purchase nettles in the springtime at your local farmers’ market or at good specialty produce shops. In either case, you want to use the tips and leafy top part of the plant only. Discard any stems that seem tough or woody. Raw nettles have a natural acid that will sting your skin and must be lightly cooked before eating. Always wear gloves when gathering or trimming nettles.
This recipe makes more butter than you will need for the chicken. Use the remainder to dress noodles, enrich polenta, or top a steak just before serving. Serve the chicken with a simple green salad.
- 8 ounces (225 g) trimmed stinging nettles
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste in a mortar
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound (450 g) good-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 roasting chicken, 31/2 to 4 pounds (1.6 to 1.8 kg)
- Fine sea salt
- 10 to 12 shallots, peeled but left whole
- 12 to 14 small new potatoes
- 12 to 14 small turnips, trimmed
- 12 to 14 young carrots, peeled
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and each cut into 6 wedges
- To prepare the butter, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using tongs or gloved hands, carefully transfer the nettles to the pot and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool. At this point, the nettles are safe to handle with bare hands. Squeeze out as much excess water as possible and chop coarsely.
- In a food processor, combine the nettles and olive oil and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every several seconds. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and butter and pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning.
- Reserve 1/2 cup (115 g) of the butter for the chicken and vegetables. Tightly wrap the remaining butter in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.
- To prepare the chicken, season it inside and out with salt. Fold the wings behind the back—it should appear to be reclining on a deck chair—to prevent the wing tips from burning while roasting. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin away from the meat on the breast, starting at the top of the breast and working down toward the thighs and drumsticks. Smear about 6 tablespoons (90 g) of the reserved butter between the loosened skin and the meat as evenly as possible. Gently pat the skin back into place. Set the chicken on a tray or platter and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. (This gives the seasoning time to marry with the bird. Plus, omitting a cover allows the skin to dry out a bit, which ensures better browning).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Loosely fill the bottom of a roomy roasting pan with the shallots, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and fennel and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Place the chicken directly on top of the vegetables.
- Roast the chicken for 15 minutes.
- Spoon some of the melted butter that has accumulated in the bottom of the pan over the vegetables and the skin of the bird, roast for another 15 minutes, and then baste the vegetables and bird again. Lower the heat to 375°F (190°C) and continue to roast for about 30 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh away from bone registers 160°F (70°C).
- Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.
- To carve, unfold the wings and, using the tip of a knife, gently remove the wings from the body. Sever the tip from the flat and then separate the flat from the drumette. Reserve the wing tip for broth. Repeat with the other wing. One at a time, remove the legs: Gently fold the thigh away from the body until the ball joint of the thigh bone pops out of the socket. Using the tip of the knife, cut through the skin to separate the leg fully from the carcass. Cut the thigh away from the drumstick. Carve the meat off of the breastbone in a single piece and slice on the diagonal, starting at the widest part of the breast to where it comes to a point at the bottom. Save the carcass for making a post-roast broth.
According to appetites, put a few slices of breast, half of a leg, and a piece of wing on each person’s plate and adorn with the roasted vegetables.
Serves 4, with leftover butter
Reprinted from In the Charcuterie Copyright (c) 2013 by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.