Mastering The Art of Roast Chicken

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Here was the deal: my favorite roast chicken recipe is this one from Thomas Keller. (Sidebar: I’m currently in San Francisco and last night I ate at Zuni, and as I was leaving the bathroom who did I lock eyes with? Thomas Keller. Turns out he goes to the bathroom too; food gods are just like us!) The problem, though, is that the Thomas Keller roast chicken with root vegetables is an event. It requires that you use your roasting pan; it involves a shopping-cart full of turnips, rutabaga, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It’s not really practical for a weeknight. As for my usual weeknight roast chicken, I’d normally wind up putting the chicken in my All-Clad metal skillet so that I could make a sauce in there afterwards (see here), roasting the vegetables separately. That was OK. Then I remembered my trusty friend the cast iron skillet. What if I did the Keller thing in there? What happened next will astound you (how’s that for an UpWorthy paragraph ender?).

It was awesome; a new favorite weeknight dinner. You get all of the caramelized, chicken-fatty vegetables you get in the roasting pan version with so much less to clean up. Plus it’s a perfect amount for two. Oh and the cast iron skillet retains its heat so the chicken gets nice and brown.

I bought a container of mini Yukon Gold potatoes and I put that in the cast iron skillet along with a few miniature carrots that came in my CSA, plus an onion cut into quarters and a few garlic cloves still in their skin, tossing everything with a little vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Then I took a 4 pound chicken, patted it dry, rubbed it with vegetable oil, put salt and pepper over everything (and in the cavity), stuffed it with a head of garlic and some rosemary, and then trussed it in that easy method where you wrap the butcher’s twine around the back end of the breast (where the wings are) and then tie the legs together. See?

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At this point, I remembered what makes Keller’s chicken so exemplary: butter on the breast. (Once Ludo Lefebvre posted a roast chicken he was making at home on Instagram and the whole thing was caked in butter). So I took some softened butter and did the same thing:

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Butter makes all the difference. Start that at 475, then after 20 minutes lower to 425 and cook for another hour or so until a thermometer placed between the leg and thigh reads 165. Your whole house will smell like the most comforting place on earth; and then you can eat that comfort.

Lift the chicken out of the pan and let it rest on a plate for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, check out those vegetables:

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You may have to pour out some of the fat; then, before serving, crank up the heat on a burner and reheat them, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a metal spatula. That’s the best part.

Carve up the chicken–cut off the legs, wings, breast, etc.–and serve with the vegetables on the side. If there’s any liquid left in the pan, drizzle that on top and sprinkle everything with some chopped parsley (or, in my case, chives because that’s what I had).

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If you’re looking to impress, this dinner does the trick every time. And it’s such an important thing to have in your repertoire; so let this be your inspiration. You got this.

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