For our weekly recipe for The Dinner Dance, Molly and I wanted to choose one of the most basic dishes that everyone should know how to cook. My brother has been begging me for years to write down this recipe. It’s so basic it’s crazy I haven’t written about this before. So here it is Sam, for you and everyone else who wants to know how to make a great roast chicken.
A roast chicken is a beautiful thing. Crispy skin, moist meat and a hint of lemon equals a stunner of a chicken. Point blank, roast chicken rules.
But there are some rules to follow to get that perfect chicken.
If you like super crispy skin, there is one step you’re probably not doing but you should be doing. Have you ever had Peking duck? The trick to Peking duck is to dehydrate the skin and get most of the moisture out of it. Peking ducks are usually hung for several days to really allow the skin to dry.
Being that we are cooking at home, we can shorten and modify this process. This one step will help you attain near-perfect crispy chicken skin.
If you’re planning to have roast chicken for dinner you need to start this process in the morning.
No Fuss Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Chimichurri Sauce
5 lb organic chicken
1 lemon, cut in half
herbs of your choosing (fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, etc.)
salt and pepper
1 onion, cut in half and sliced in 1” pieces
2 parsnips, cut in ½ inch rounds
1 ½ cups butternut squash, cubed (pre-cut is a time saver)
10 button mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed, and cut in half
8 small waxy potatoes, cut in half (red russet, yellow potatoes or fingerlings)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (I buy pre-peeled for convenience)
sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
1 large bunch parsley, washed, leaves cut from stems in one chop (discard stems or save for stock)
2 tablespoons capers
½ tsp chili flakes
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup + 3 tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
I know many recipes call for tying the chicken’s legs together, or tucking the wings behind the chicken, but I don’t find this necessary for this recipe. The wings crisp up very nicely when they’re untucked and I love nibbling on the roasty bits. So no fussing with twine or trussing. Use the bird as is (but remove the neck bone and liver that’s tucked inside the bird in a little package).
In the morning (after your cup of coffee) unwrap your chicken, blot the skin with paper towels and then generously season the entire chicken, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a roasting rack or cooling rack (usually used for cookies) inside of a sheet tray lined with foil, and place in the fridge uncovered. The foil will make clean-up after the chicken is roasted much, much easier. The chicken’s skin will dry out throughout the day and these 5 minutes of prep will ensure a boast-worthy roast in the evening.
In the evening, take the chicken out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you’re ready to cook it. It needs to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
When chicken roasts at this temperature, it can make the oven a little smoky because the fat that drips off the chicken splatters inside the oven. Don’t fret. Just turn your vent on your stove on, and you may need to open a window!
Stuff the chicken with a small bunch of whatever herbs you have on hand. I particularly love cilantro, but any herb will lend a gorgeous scent to the bird. Tuck the herbs in and then insert the halved lemon. Keeping the chicken on the sheet tray and rack, place the chicken on the center rack in the oven and cook the chicken for an hour. Check on the chicken after about 40 minutes. If it’s getting too dark, just place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the chicken. It’s rare that my chicken gets too dark, but it will depend on your oven.
Meanwhile, once the chicken is in, season the veggies with about ¼ cup of olive oil. It’s really just about being generous with the olive oil so the veggies don’t dry up in the oven. Toss 6-8 sprigs of thyme with all the veggies (you can add in cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots, celery…any veg that would be yummy roasted) and season with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy with the salt. Mix with your hands to ensure seasoning and oil is evenly distributed.
Spread the veggies evenly on a sheet tray. After the chicken has cooked for about 25 minutes, place the veggies on the rack below the chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes. Once a knife easily pierces one of the denser vegetables (like butternut squash or a potato), the veggies are done. Remove from the oven.
At an hour, turn off the oven and let the chicken sit in the oven for 5 minutes. You can check the internal temperature at this point with a meat thermometer if you like. Insert the thermometer into a meaty part of the leg or thigh, avoiding touching the bone with the thermometer. Once the temperature is 160 degrees F, the chicken is done. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on the counter, just to let the juices settle.
While the chicken is resting, make the chimichurri. It take 2 minutes.
Add all the dry ingredients to a food processor (or blender) and pulse just to break up the parsley a bit. With the blade running, pour in the olive oil, and then pour in the vinegar. This sauce comes together very quickly. Try not to over pulse as we’re not looking for creamy with this sauce. A bit of texture is nice.
Taste the sauce and add more olive oil if it’s too vinegary. Or add a touch more salt if it tastes flat. It should be very herby, garlicky, and a bit salty, with a touch of heat. It’s great on chicken, or steak…or all over your veggies.
Those are the rules. Now you can dig in!