Roast chicken with autumn flavours

A roast chicken with maple butter and rosemary. The natural sugars in maple syrup caramelise in this recipe, turning the chicken's skin a nutty brown. PHOTO: CON POULOS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - There are any number of ways to roast a chicken, and most home cooks have their preferred method. But while ingredients and preparations can vary, one thing is constant: Roasting a chicken can turn a weeknight dinner into a meal worthy of a celebration. As the weather turns brisk, the days shorten and we spend more time inside, we turn to the types of dishes that offer comfort, and if they also warm up the kitchen, even better.

This simple, six-ingredient recipe does just that. Here, melted butter is combined with maple syrup and fresh rosemary - two classic autumn flavours - and then spooned over the top of the chicken. The bird goes into the oven for about an hour until glossy and golden.

If you can find dark amber maple syrup for this recipe, use it. Deeper in flavour and thicker than the lighter variety, it will create a richer sauce. If it is not within reach, not to worry. Just make sure to use one that is of good quality.

The maple butter serves a dual purpose: Using it to baste the chicken ensures that the meat falls off the bone, while its natural sugars caramelise and turn the skin a nutty brown. The result is a glazed, sweet and salty chicken that makes the house smell pretty great.

You will have plenty of buttery pan juices left over, which you should whisk together and mop up with crusty bread or spoon over rice or roasted potatoes. Serve with a salad of chicories dressed with a bright, lemony dressing or a side of greens that have been sautéed in garlicky oil.

Eat your meal around a fire, with plates on laps and a butter- streaked wine glass in hand. You will be happy you did.

Roast Chicken With Maple Butter and Rosemary

Yield: 4 servings Total time: 1 hour

1 (1.5kg) whole chicken
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 to 3 rosemary sprigs, plus 2½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs maple syrup

1. Heat the oven to 180 deg C. Pat the chicken dry and season it well with salt and pepper, both inside and out. Place the chicken breast-side up in a 25.5cm cast-iron or ovenproof skillet and stuff the rosemary sprigs into the bird's cavity.

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped rosemary and the maple syrup, and cook together until the rosemary is fragrant and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon all of the mixture over the chicken, making sure it is evenly covered. A decent amount will end up on the bottom of the pan, and that's OK.

3. Roast the chicken, basting with the pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes or so, until the chicken is glossy and golden brown and registers 165 degrees with an instant thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, about 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste an additional time, if desired. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Whisk remaining juice and pass at the table.

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