Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

I know, some of you are thinking, “booorrriiiiing,” roast chicken.  Most of us are trained to think chicken is boring because we’ve eaten meal after meal of chicken that is cooked to dust with not much to recommend it.  Let me assure you that a really good roast chicken is anything but boring.  It can be amazing.  It should be amazing.  I’m still perfecting mine, but tonight’s was darned fantastic!

So, what do we know about simple dishes?  The ingredients really count.  In this case the chicken really counts.  Let’s say it together, “I solemnly swear that I will never buy another skinless, boneless chicken breast again.”  Two reasons for that.  First, it’s absurdly expensive.  Second, the skin and the bones both help add flavor and moisture in the cooking process.  I’m not saying you need to eat the skin, but leave it on for cooking.  I also recommend a local and/or organic chicken if that’s in your budget (and if you’ve been buying commercially produced boneless skinless breasts, it is).  The conditions in which commercial chickens are “raised” notwithstanding (and they are horrifying), free range chickens just taste better.  They taste like chicken.  Just try it.  You’ll see.

Tonight’s chicken was super easy.  I put a little olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and dried thyme in a small bowl and made a paste.  I loosened the chicken skin and rubbed the paste under the skin. Finish by smoothing your hands over the chicken just to add a little oil to the top.  I put a half of a lemon and a half of a small sweet onion inside.  That’s it.

I had a 5 pound chicken so it needed to cook 100 minutes.  The rule is 20 minutes per pound.  Some folks recommend that you add 10-15 minutes on top of that.  I find that with organic, farm-raised chicken the 20 minutes per pound is enough.  You’re going to let it sit 10-15 minutes anyway.  You’re looking for the thigh meat to register 180 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Also, when you remove the thermometer the juice should run clear.  Get a thermometer if you’re nervous about making sure it’s cooked all the way through.  Don’t just add on extra time.  That’s how you end up with dry chicken.

A few tips.  To make sure the skin is really crisp and brown I cook mine at 350 degrees for the first 90 minutes and then crank it up to 400 for the last 10.  Some folks do the high heat 10 minutes at the beginning and then lower the temp.  Your call.  Also, if your chicken is the perfect brown before it’s done just throw a piece of foil over the top.  Don’t seal it up or put a top on the pan.  You’ll end up with steamed chicken that way. They skin will be soggy and look gross.  That brings us to a little advice about the pan.  You can see that I use a shallow pan and not a roaster.  I find that when I cook vegetables with the chicken they turn out better in a shallow pan and it doesn’t alter the cooking time.  If you use a roasting pan and the chicken and vegetables are crowded in together you’ll need to add to the cooking time.  You’ll also need to baste more to get crisp chicken and potatoes.    Allowing them a little room to breathe just seems to work better.  Of course if you’re going to cream the potatoes that matters less, except for the cooking time.

Tonight I put my chicken on a cooling rack in a shallow pan and scattered red, gold and purple fingerling potatoes around with baby carrots and the other half of the sweet onion.  I basted only once in the middle of the roasting time.  Super moist, super yummy and super pretty for serving.  I added a small arugula salad to the side of the plate.  I used a very small amount of the chicken drippings and squeezed the roasted half a lemon for the dressing on the arugula.  Yum.  An excellent dinner.  Excellent.

Good? I believe I mentioned, excellent!
Easy? Yep, just takes time.
Good for company? Perfect for company.
Special shopping? Get a good chicken.

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One Response to “Roasted Chicken and Vegetables”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Funny! We made a roast chicken last night too. Today, chicken stock. Yummmm.

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