Chefs and home cooks alike are constantly waxing poetic about the joys of roasting a whole chicken. And even though it’s also one of my favorite preparations, I’ll spare you my own musings about why a roast chicken is so gratifying. Instead, here’s a glimpse into my culinary psyche.
My chicken ritual consists of rubbing down a whole bird with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs and roasting it in the oven until it’s sizzling and crisp. And here comes my confession: After confirming with my thermometer that the chicken is done all the way through, I hover over the bird, poking the skin until it shatters and eat the hot crisp shards in guilty delight. I usually have all of this deliciousness to myself, since my husband is somewhat less enthusiastic about the joys of chicken skin.
Next I take the bird out of the skillet or pan, put the pan on a burner, and commence to making gravy. It never matters to me whether or not I have potatoes to accompany the gravy, or even rice. I make the gravy and eat it with the freshly roasted chicken, with vegetables, even toasted sandwich bread. (Don’t you judge me.)
The rest of the chicken’s meat will later be sliced and saved, usually to be made into chicken salad. The carcass will live in the refrigerator until I have time to make stock. It will be covered with water in my biggest pot, along with carrot, celery, onion, and garlic, (and giblets!) and slow cooked until I’m satisfied that every last bit of flavor has been extracted. The stock it yields will become a soup, chicken and dumplings, or frozen cubes of flavor to be added to bland dishes as needed. I tell myself I am economical and virtuous, for having used every part of the bird (at least the parts available to me). But deep down I know I did it all for the skin. And the gravy.
My favorite roast chicken, courtesy of Mark Bittman:
I love this recipe because there’s no brining, no tying up, no turning the bird halfway through. But it gives you the juiciest, most flavorful chicken you could ask for. It also makes a lovely, rustic presentation in the cast iron skillet.
I came across this recipe in the How To Cook Everything App for iPhone. I use this app all the time, so much so that it probably necessitates an entire post devoted to it. But for now, take my word for it, the app is terrific.
A few things I do that he doesn’t mention: before roasting the bird, I take a spoon and slide it between the skin and the meat. You can use your fingers for this if you like. Then I rub a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs underneath the skin. You can use butter if you’re feeling really decadent. (I first learned about the skin-lifting technique in this eye-popping video by Josh Ozersky. Though if there’s a culinary term for this, you chefs out there let me know.)
I also halve a lemon and an onion and stuff them inside the bird, and garlic cloves too if I’m in the mood. These seem to enhance the flavor and moisture of the chicken, though I have no empirical evidence to support that claim. Once the chicken is roasted, the lemon can be squeezed over the top, for a little zing.
And finally, some recipes for getting the most out of your bird
- Martha’s Chicken Salad Recipe Collection
- Smitten Kitchen Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
- Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad
- Food Network Chicken Salad
Chicken stock or broth
- Epicurious Leftover Roast Chicken Stock
- Nourished Kitchen Roast Chicken Stock
- The Paupered Chef Chicken Stock
Chicken Pot Pie
- The Pioneer Woman Chicken and Dumplings
- The Kitchn Chicken and Dumplings
- Smitten Kitchen Matzo Ball Soup
- Bon Appetit Matzo Ball Soup
- Bon Appetit Chicken Ginger Soup
- Tyler Florence Chicken Noodle Soup
With love and comfort, from my skillet to yours…