On the heels of a miserable post-winter cold monster, I’ve been craving comfort foods. Soup. Mac and cheese. Spaghetti. All serviceable. All edible. All have tamed the tissue-gnawing beast a bit.
But the blue-ribbon winner of the week? Roasted chicken.
Roasted chicken, carrots, onions, potatoes. Heaven on a Sunday evening.
That’s what I’ll be making again, even after my nose turns back to its normal color.
Roasting also feels like perfect weekend cooking. It’s a bit of prep, and then you get a lazy evening to relax as the aromas fill the house. And the leftover meat makes terrific sandwiches to take for lunch.
I think I sort of knew already, back in some dust-bunny crevice of my brain, that roasted chicken was a certifiable winner. That it’s one of those classic meals that gives you 10 times the return for the effort. It is so so so good. It is the kind of meal where you wonder, why in the world would we ever go out to a restaurant to eat? This is a $5 chicken and $2 worth of vegetables. And it’s fabulous!
There are a more or less a quadrillion ways to roast a chicken. The experts have their tips. Salt the chicken a day ahead. Let the chicken come to room temperature before roasting. Use a cast-iron skillet.
But, in the end, I turned to two standards: Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. And they seemed more or less in agreement on the critical bits:
1. Wash and dry – thoroughly – the chicken.
2. Salt and pepper the chicken skin.
3. Stuff some flavor magic in the cavity, like a half a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, some herbs, a half an onion.
4. Rub butter all over the chicken skin. If you have fresh herbs around, mash that into the butter first.
5. Place the chicken in the bottom of a roasting pan or something similar.
And then there’s my own rule:
6. Add vegetables.
This seems to be optional for the celeb chefs.
But not for me.
Roasted vegetables are delicious in their own right. But these vegetables? These vegetables cuddle around the chicken and cook in chicken juices. They soak up the most exquisite natural broth and grow caramelized and yet crisp. Dreamy. Seriously.
Veggies, ready for their chicken neighbor and the oven spa.
Even veggie haters need to consider this. Think of it as a veggie gateway.
Besides, why would you bother boiling or sauteing a side dish when you have extra space for rent around the bird? Do you have a secret game for making washing dishes fun?
If so, please share.
I advocate one pan for one dinner whenever humanly possible. (By the way, an official roasting pan isn’t essential. I used my all-purpose 9×13 Pyrex dish, and that worked fine.)
Here’s my recent recipe, but it’s really up for grabs. Swap the veggies with fennel, parsnips, or any root vegetable. Change out butter for olive oil. Nix the garlic. Make it exactly how you like it.
Marvelous Roasted Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds (you can easily go bigger, just cook it longer and add more veggies as needed to fill your pan)
- Fresh herbs (optional)
- Dried herbs, like herbes de provence (optional)
- 2 carrots
- 6 small potatoes
- 4 small onions
- 1/2 lemon
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees or 210C.
Wash the chicken and dry it thoroughly. I used paper towels to pat it down.
Place the chicken in the middle of a baking pan with sides. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken.
If you have fresh herbs – oregano, basil, rosemary, dill, sage, etc. – mince up a few tablespoons and mash them into a few tablespoons of butter.
Using your freshly washed fingers, spread the butter, with or without herbs, all around the skin.
Sprinkle dried herbs all over the chicken.
Into the cavity – make sure it’s otherwise empty, no bag or giblets or anything – stuff a half a lemon and a small onion peeled and cut in half.
Stuff the chicken with lemon, onion. Garlic and herbs are nice, if you like.
Peel the carrots and potatoes. Slice them up into carrot rods and potato chunks. Don’t make them too thin or small or they will cook quickly and burn. Peel and quarter the small onions. (Cut them into chunks if you only have large onions.)
Add the vegetables all around the chicken.
Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. Toss the vegetables with your hands so the oil and seasonings get spread around.
You can tie the legs shut, but I didn’t bother. Turns out it’s a myth that trussing is essential. Though, if you want to tie it up, here’s a great video detailing how.
Pop the pan into the oven. After 15 or 20 minutes, check the oven. If the veggies are looking slightly too done already, turn down the oven to 400 or 375. (I had to do this.)
Cook for an hour (3-4 pounds) to an hour and a half (5-6 pounds).
Take the chicken out and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. This seems ridiculous, but it’s the difference between a good bird and a succulent, moist, and memorable roasted chicken.
Have a marvelous weekend!