you should know how to make: a roast chicken

If I never give you another gift from this little blog of mine, I hope to give you the gift of this roast chicken.

I could work some cute little tie in with “if you teach a man to fish you’ll feed him for a lifetime” right here.  That’s about how I feel about this chicken. It’s the building block upon which you could build an entire kitchen repertoire.  It’s simple enough for a weeknight supper, well rounded enough to serve as a one pan dinner, and impressive enough to serve at a dinner party.

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We make this chicken pretty much weekly around here.  We eat the chicken legs, thighs, and wings on the first night.  (it’s more than enough for our family of 3, and usually leaves some leftovers for lunches the next day.) Then we save the remaining breast meat to use as the foundation for another meal (or two) later in the week.  I love to keep my favorite chicken salad on hand and really only like to use my roast chicken for making it.  We also love that grandmotherly delicacy, the casserole.  Instead of using the canned or boiled chicken our grandmothers used, I use this ridiculously good chicken! (Someday I’ll tell y’all about my techniques for “canned soup free” casseroles.)

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This is the first thing I teach any of my friends who come to me for help learning to cook, and it was always one of the first meals I would serve to my clients when I worked as a personal chef.  It’s endlessly customizable with different herbs and spices and we’ve never grown tired of it.  I’ve been making this chicken for my husband since before we were married, so for probably 8+ years now. I don’t think a dinner has ever happened where he hasn’t told me it’s his most favorite meal of all time.

Perfectly crispy chicken skin gives way to some of the juiciest poultry you’ll ever eat.  This chicken sets the bar high.  It has even surpassed my love of the Costco rotisserie chicken. (A convenience item I still indulge in occasionally.) The roasted vegetables are the icing on top.  The carrots are situated under the chicken and are imparted with the most umami rich flavors and were once called by a client of mine “carrot candy.” I’d have to agree with him. The potatoes are roasted and browned on the outside and creamy on the inside.  The onions impart their flavor to the whole dish and caramelize perfectly.

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The bird itself is a bit deconstructed.  I promise this will be the hardest part of the whole process- and it isn’t that difficult.  Once you learn the technique of “spatchcocking” the chicken, it will be simple and painless! For many years I roasted this chicken whole and served the bird in its intact state, but I always struggled with rubbery, overcooked legs (and we’re dark meat people, so that was a travesty) in order to cook the breast meat through.  Not only does the spatchcock method produce a tastier chicken, it cuts the cooking time down by about 30 minutes.  Don’t be intimidated by the method.  Grab some kitchen shears and watch this video. You got this.

Garlic Roast Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

Ingredients:

6 to 6.5 lb whole roaster chicken

1 pound carrots

2 pounds red potatoes

1 large onion

For the garlic rub:

12 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the exterior of the chicken and the vegetables:

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Method: 

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees.

Peel and cut carrots into 1/2″ sticks and place in the center of a very large RIMMED baking sheet.  (This can be done in a 9×11 rectangular pan, but the result is better spread out on a large baking sheet.)  Wash and cut the potatoes into 1 1/2″ cubes and scatter along the edges of the pan. Chop the onion into large sixteenths and distribute among the vegetables.

Prepare the chicken.  Remove any thing from inside the chicken cavity. Remove the backbone and flatten the chicken slightly*. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken (this is not completely necessary, but keeps the wings from burning). Place the chicken on the baking sheet on top of the carrots.

Prepare the garlic rub. Mince or use a garlic press to chop the 12 cloves of garlic.  In a small bowl- mix together the garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  It should resemble a paste.

Divide the paste and gently lift the chicken breast skin near the legs (the bottom) and add distribute half of the paste under the skin of each breast.  You can also work some of the paste into the areas of the chicken legs and thighs while remaining under the skin.  Take care to keep the skin intact, this works as the insulation for the chicken and keeps the meat from drying out.  Also- be sure to keep the garlic mixture UNDER the skin. It will burn when exposed to prolonged high heat and isn’t delicious!

Pat the exterior of the chicken with a dry paper towel.  Drizzle the 3 tablespoons of olive oil evenly over the chicken and the vegetables. Sprinkle the chicken legs and thighs and the vegetables (including the carrots underneath the chicken) with another 1/2 tablespoon of salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 1 hour (or longer).  Or until a thermometer inserted into the white meat (the breast meat) reads 165 degrees.  This can vary dramatically based on your oven, the temperature of your chicken, and the size of your bird.  When the chicken is 165 degrees, remove it and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

If you notice your vegetables are still crunchy, remove the chicken to a platter and place the vegetables back into the 450 degree oven for 10-20 minutes so they can finish cooking.

Variations: You can customize this with any herbs or spices you like! We love a garlic lime chicken with lime zest and halved limes for a unique Mexican twist.  We’ve used BBQ rub in place of the garlic, salt, and pepper for a cheater BBQ chicken dinner.  One of my favorites is rosemary/garlic chicken- just add 3 sprigs of finely chopped fresh rosemary to the garlic mixture.

Enjoy!

*DON’T THROW AWAY THE BACKBONE AND VEGGIE SCRAPS!! Come back soon for my slow cooker chicken stock using the leftover backbone and vegetable scraps!

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