The importance of clay in human history cannot be overstated. A simple material made from earth and water, it gave us not only improved vessels and containers, but also the ability to easily make art in three dimensions. When it comes to cooking, the power of clay is impressive. It insulates, creating an oven inside an oven, stuffed with a slowly growing excess of heat. But that heat is tempered by a diffuse steam, seeping out of the porous material throughout the roasting, basting the chicken (or whatever you're cooking) to gift you with moist meat and tender vegetables.
It's worth scouring garage sales and thrift stores for clay baking vessels. For some reason, people dispose of them after a few years of use. Trust me, when you find one, hold onto it. You may not bake in it every week, but when you use it you'll be in awe of the results.
2 tablespoons Butter, softened
1 tablespoon Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling over chicken at end
4 garlic cloves: 2 cracked, 2 minced
2 tablespoons fresh Sage
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 5-6 lb. Chicken
4 medium Carrots cut into 2" chunks (about 6.5 ounces total)
2 Celery Stalks cut into 2" chunks (about 6 ounces)
1 Yellow Onion cut into quarters
8 small Red Skinned Potatoes, cut into quarters
Juice of one Lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste
Soak clay pot in water (completely submerged) for at least 30 minutes.
Mix softened butter with olive oil, add 2 minced garlic cloves, sage, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Loosen chicken skin by lightly inserting fingers under skin. Rub a small amount of butter/herb mixture lightly under loosened skin. Rub remaining butter mixture on outside of chicken. Season outside of chicken with salt and pepper.
Season chicken cavity with salt and pepper. Place as many vegetables as will fit, along with the 2 cracked garlic cloves in chicken cavity. Place remaining vegetables along with potatoes in bottom of baker.
Set chicken on top of vegetables in baker. Stuff parsley around the chicken. Squeeze lemon juice around chicken and onto parsley.
Add clay pot lid on top and put baker in cold oven. Set oven temperature to 425°F and cook for 1 ½ - 2 hours (the first 20-30 minutes of your baking time will be the oven coming up to temperature). Remove lid of clay pot and turn heat up to 500˚. Remove chicken from the oven and drizzle extra olive oil over the skin while the oven reaches maximum temperature. Put chicken back in (still uncovered) and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until skin is golden brown. Chicken is done when meat thermometer inserted in thigh area reads 165°F.