How To Roast A Chicken

Of all the dishes in my repertoire, this is the one that gets the biggest wows, the one that Craig requests the most often, the one that never fails to impress: it’s the roast chicken from the Chez Panisse cookbook with a few touches of my own (namely: potatoes and garlic). This video will show you how easy it is and then, after the jump, I’ll post a recipe and a few more tips.

Before I post the recipe (since the recipe is basically in the video) a few extra notes:

* Wash the chicken first and then pat dry with lots of paper towels. I can’t overemphasize how important it is that your chicken is super-dry, otherwise it’s going to steam.

* In terms of proportions, I use about 1/3 of a cup of kosher salt (I know that’s an awful lot, but I put it in the bowl with the other spices and then sprinkle it all over the chicken until the chicken’s coated: I don’t necessarily use all that salt), a Tbs of pepper, and then 1 Tbs fennel seeds and 1 tsp (or less) of cayenne pepper.

* It’s good to have a good roasting pan, and mine wasn’t very expensive. Go to your local kitchen supply store and get a good big one but don’t spend more than $40; I didn’t, and I still love mine.

Ok, that’s all I can think of to say: the rest should be evident from the video. And as promised, here’s the recipe as I recently wrote it to my mother in an e-mail. [It feeds 3; for any more, buy a bigger bird and use more spices.]


A 4 lb chicken that’s preferably organic and/or freerange

fennel seeds

cayenne pepper

kosher salt

fresh thyme (not dried thyme)

1 pound of red potatoes

butcher’s twine (to tie up the chicken legs)

a head of garlic

olive oil

The recipe is super easy. Take the chicken, remove the giblets from the cavity, wash the chicken under cold water and then dry THOROUGHLY. Use tons of paper towels and get it really really dry… the skin will get crispy that way.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine a big handful of salt–maybe a half a cupful–with lots of fresh ground pepper, a tablespoon of the fennel seeds and a scant teaspoon of the cayenne pepper (be careful it’s REALLY spicy… use a bit more if you want it spicy.)

Sprinkle the seasoning inside the chicken’s cavity, and then stuff the cavity with the fresh thyme. Tie the chicken’s legs together. Sprinkle the seasoning over the rest of the chicken–be really aggressive here, the salt will go through the chicken skin into the bird and that’s what’ll make it taste good.

Place breast-side up in a roasting pan and then take all the potatoes and cut them in half. Toss the potatoes with a bit of olive oil until they’re coated, throw in a few cloves of garlic still in the peel (don’t peel it), and toss with some salt and pepper. Place the potaotes CUT SIDE down all around the chicken. Placing them this way will get them nice and crispy and brown.

Roast in the oven for about an hour (for a 4 pound bird) a bit more if the bird is bigger. You’ll know it’s done when the chicken is golden brown and the potatoes are brown underneath.

When it’s done, remove the chicken to a plate or a platter and cover with aluminum foil: let rest for 15 minutes. That’s REALLY important: it allows the juices to go back into the bird.

Take the potatoes out and put on a platter.

If you want to make a delicious sauce, pour white wine into the roasting pan and put the pan on the stove and scrape up the brown bits as the wine boils. Let it reduce a bit and then pour into a bowl.

To carve the chicken, cut off the legs and thighs first (using a sharp kniife): don’t be afraid to push hard to cut through the bone. Then cut the wings off and finally cut the meat off the breast.

That’s it! It’s the best you’ll ever have.

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