Italian Roast Chicken

Serves 8-10

1 (5 1/2 pound) free-range chicken
1/2 bunch each fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 stick, soft, unsalted butter
Kosher salt & ground black pepper, to taste
1 orange, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 head garlic
1 medium white onion, quartered
6 strips thick cut bacon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cream sherry
Stuffing bag (if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Divide each of the herbs, reserving 1/2 of them whole and finely chopping the rest.
3. After rinsing the bird and removing the giblets, pat it dry with paper towels.
4. Add to the stuffing bag the whole herbs, ½ the orange wedges, all the garlic, ½ the onion, and ½ the celery and place into the bird cavity.
5. Rub the softened butter under the skin onto the breasts, as well as liberally all over the outside of the chicken.
6. Sprinkle the chopped herbs onto the chicken and pat gently into the butter. Add salt and pepper.
7. Place the chicken, breast-side up, in a large iron skillet. Place the remaining fruits and vegetables around the bird to flavor the juices collected while cooking.
8. Lay the strips of bacon in a single layer across the breast of the chicken.
9. Place the bird in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
10. After 30 minutes, remove, and reserve, the bacon strips and baste the chicken with the drippings.
11. Cook for 1 additional hour, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh or deep in the breast. The juices from the chicken should be running clear by this time. When done, move the chicken to a platter and let rest for a minimum of 10 minutes.

To prepare the gravy:
1. While the bird is resting prior to carving, remove the fruits and vegetables from the roasting pan and discard.
2. Tilt the skillet so the drippings collect in one corner, and skim off as much fat as possible while leaving all the drippings.
3. Place the skillet on top of the stove over medium heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the flavor from the bottom, and mix into the drippings.
4. Whisk in the flour to make a roux-like paste, and slowly add the chicken broth in stages, whisking constantly. After all the broth has been added, increase the heat to medium high and bring the gravy briefly to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat, and continue stirring until the gravy quits bubbling and develops a smooth texture. Stir in the sherry.

Larry trimming ears of cornTo serve this lovely bird, remove the stuffing bag and carve the chicken into slices, place on plate and drizzle on the gravy. Garnish as desired.

I sometimes like to cut the chicken into ten pieces, and add a half ear of corn to give the plate a more rustic look. For you campers, this recipe is easily adapted to black pot cooking, and is always a hit when prepared on a campfire. The aromas wafting in the air makes everyone hungry!

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