A simple and classic roast chicken is one of the meals you should know how to make. Lest you say “roast chicken is roast chicken,” may I remind you of the many bland and uninteresting roast chickens you have probably eaten and tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.
My go-to, absolute favorite, crowd-pleasing roast chicken recipe comes from Ina Garten, aka “The Barefoot Contessa.” Garten is a self-taught home cook who has reworked classic recipes and given them new life. I have made her version of roast chicken dozens of times, for family dinners and for just the two of us, and I inevitably get compliments and requests to share the recipe.
What sets Garten’s recipe apart from most is that her technique crisps up the skin to a delectable texture. She stuffs the bird with a bunch or aromatics – lemon, garlic, thyme – and cushions it with root vegetables. Cooking time is 90 minutes in a hot, 475 degree F oven, followed by resting time of 20 minutes under a foil tent.
There’s really not much to it, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. If you don’t have a roasting pan, use a cast iron skillet. Ina Garten’s recipe calls for a 5-6 lb. chicken, but I have made this with a much smaller bird. If your chicken looks small in your roasting pan, or you just don’t have one, a 12-inch cast iron skillet will work almost as well.
2. Place the root vegetables under the chicken rather than around it. Piling the vegetables under the chicken, rather than scattering them around the pan, prevents them from burning. But, perhaps more importantly, the veggies absorb the chicken drippings, adding extra flavor.
3. Feel free to add other vegetables to the pan or skillet. This recipe calls for onion, fennel, and carrots, but you can omit or add other veggies as you see fit. Red potatoes, or sweet potatoes, parsnips and turnips would work as well. Make sure you cut them thickly so they don’t shrivel and burn.
4. Invest in some kitchen string: Kitchen string will help the bird cook evenly. Not an issue if you don’t have any on hand, but consider purchasing some as you will find that you’ll need it again.
If you’re worried about carving the chicken, watch a video on how to do so here.
Make a crisp green salad to serve alongside the chicken, maybe also pair it with a glass of Pinot Noir, followed by a chocolatey dessert, and you really will have yourself a winner winner chicken dinner.
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
- 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry.
- Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.
- Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.
- Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.
- Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
- Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh.
- Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.
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