Clay Roasted Herb Chicken

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Here’s a fun and easy way to cook chickens: encase the birds in special clay that hardens during roasting, trapping heat and juices inside for succulent, flavorful meat…and everyone will enjoy cracking the baked clay with a mallet to release the chickens.

• 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
• 1 lemon quartered
• 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 2 tsp. chopped sage
• 2 tsp. chopped rosemary
• 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 Tbs. kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
• 2 chickens, each 4 1/2 to 5 lb.
• 9 lb. roasting clay

Preheat an oven to 425°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter, shallot, rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper until well blended.

Working with 1 chicken at a time, slip your fingers underneath the skin and loosen it over the breast, thighs and drumsticks. For each chicken, slip 4 to 5 Tbs. of the herb butter under the skin and massage the butter to distribute it evenly. Rub 1 Tbs. of the herb butter on the outside of the chicken, season generously with sea salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with half a lemon (quartered) and fresh rosemary springs and sage. Tie the legs together with cooking strings to keep the stuffing into place. Wrap each chicken separately in a large piece of parchment paper, first with the seam underneath, and the second time with the seam on top so the chicken is completely covered and juice cannot escape.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out a 2 1/4-lb. piece of clay into an oval about 14 inches long and 11 inches wide. Place 1 parchment-wrapped chicken in the center. On another sheet of parchment paper, roll out another 2 1/4-lb. piece of clay into the same-size oval. Place, clay side down, on top of the chicken and gently pull off the parchment. Carefully crimp the edges of the 2 clay ovals together to completely encase the chicken, pushing out any air pockets. Repeat the process with the other chicken.

Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper. Place both clay-wrapped chickens in the pan, transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chickens rest for 15 minutes before cracking the clay.

Using a mallet or a meat tenderizer, tap on the clay to break through the baked shells. Carefully remove large pieces of hot clay and brush away any small pieces. Discard the clay. Open the parchment and, using tongs, gently transfer the chickens to a cutting board. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh, away from the bone; the breast should register 160°F and the thigh, 170°F. If the chickens are not yet done, place them in a clean roasting pan or on a baking sheet and continue roasting until the correct internal temperature is reached. Carve the chickens into serving pieces and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.