Roasted chicken is one recipe that should be in everyone’s repitoire. It’s simple, it’s classic, and most of all, it’s nourishing. Few meals feel as comforting, homey and right as a well-roasted whole chicken on a bed of rustic seasonable vegetables. You can dress this up, or down, but the method stays pretty much the same.
In culinary school, we spent one class just learning how to perfectly roast different types of meats. In addition to pork loins and racks of lamb, this instruction included roasting some fifteen Cornish hens, loaded with aromatics and garlic, similar to the recipe below. Before this class, I’d always assumed roasting was as simple as cooking some meat in a preheated oven at one constant temperature – and sure, it can be. But, there is a trick of the trade that applies particularly to roasting birds, and that is to cook it for the first fifteen minutes at a slightly higher temperature. This achieves the equivalent of searing meat before roasting it (while allowing you to avoid the unwieldy task of searing a five-pound chicken in a skillet) – it gives ensures the exterior skin is crispy and well-browned, while locking moisture into the meat. The result? A perfectly cooked, brown and crispy bird.
Here, quite simply, is how to roast a perfect chicken.
Roasted Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables - Serves 4
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken
- 1 medium (5 to 6 pound) chicken
- 2 medium yellow onions, cubed
- 6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 bulbs of fennel, tops and bottoms removed, cut into wedges
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and cubed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 40 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Start by cleaning the chicken – remove any giblets, rinse it well inside and out, and pat very dry. Trim any excess fat around the neck or bottom cavity. Salt the cavity of the chicken very well; then, put the lemon, garlic, and half of the thyme inside the cavity. Tie the chicken legs together. If you don’t have kitchen twine, cross the legs, cut a small hole in the excess skin at the bottom of each chicken, and slip the leg bones through the holes to hold in place.
3. In a large roasting pan or pot, add the cubed vegetables, olive oil and remaining thyme. Season liberally with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, and brush the chicken skin with the melted butter. Seasons skin well with salt and pepper.
4. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes at 450 degrees – this will dry out the skin and create greater crispness. Lower the temperature to 425 and continue roasting for another hour and 15 minutes. You can check for doneness by twisting the bone in the chicken leg; if it turns easily, the chicken is done. Alternately, you can cut between the leg and thigh; juices should run clear.
5. Remove from oven and allow chicken to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Slice the chicken and arrange on a platter or plates with the roasted vegetables. Top with excess juices from roasting pan, if desired.