Swinging Some Serious Fowl: Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy

First let me lure you in with chicken:

And then bore you with family drama…

My family was Jew-guilting me a great deal this week. “Happy Yom Kippur!” my grandma sang into the phone yesterday.

“It’s not a happy holiday, grandma!” I retorted.

“Then a very sad Yom Kippur. What are you doing for the holiday?”

What am I doing. Ugh. Well back in the college days there was Hillel and because I’m a grad student at NYU, I suppose I could’ve gone to Hillel services, but they really don’t do much for me. I identify with Judaism on a cultural level. Religiously, I’ve carved my own spiritual path that shall be known some day as Adamism. It involves the song stylings of Patti Lupone and many many late night pastries.

But my Jewguilt got the best of me last night and so I cracked open Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America.” I was looking for advice on what to cook the night before Yom Kippur. Here’s what I found:

“It must have been quite a scene on the Lower East Side before Yom Kippur in the late 1890s. On the morning prior to the fast, each member of the family would swing a live fowl around his head three times repeating the following words in Hebrew, ‘This fowl is my substitute, this is my surrogate, this is my atonement.’ The custom of kapparot replaces the Temple Yom Kippur sacrifice in which a goat, bearing the sins of the nation, was sent out into the wilderness to die. Like so many other traditions, kapparot came to replace a tradition lost with the destruction of the Temple. Some of the chickens were roasted for the family; others were given to the poor. It is a custom continued to this day in many Orthodox communities.”

I proceeded to Whole Foods to find a fowl that I could swing around my head three times. Instead I found this, an Amish chicken:


I feel like there’s something funny to be said about Amish chicken. So I just IMed Kirk of The Daily Kirk: “Make an Amish chicken joke.”

Kirk writes: “Why did the Amish chicken cross the road?”

Me: “Why?”

Kirk: “Because he had to get to an archaic outdated ridiculous church service.”


I didn’t swing the Amish chicken around my head three times. Instead, I submitted to a fierce internal debate regarding deep ontological issues. These issues amounted to: should I do my favorite Barefoot Contessa roast chicken recipe or try something new?

If I could search my archives, I’d link to that original post because Barefoot Contessa roast chicken is heavenly. You stuff your bird with lemon, thyme and garlic, tie it up and roast for an hour at 400 degrees. The gravy that makes is awesome.

But I needed something simpler: after all, this is the atonement holiday. We can’t enjoy ourselves that much. And so I reached into my giant Gourmet cookbook and found a simple recipe for Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy.

Say the editors: “To find the most succulent and simplest roast chicken, one with moist, tender meat and crisp skin, we roasted a lot of birds. We wanted the final word on whether brining, basting, and turning the chicken are worth the effort. Fresh kosher birds tasted great, but the skin didn’t seem to brown well or become as crisp as we like. The winner was an organic chicken, salted, peppered, and brushed with butter, then turned from side to side during the roasting, basted twice, and finished breast up.”

Phew. And so I give you the Gourmet cookbook Roast Chicken recipe. The results were really nice, as you’ll see later. The meat was incredibly moist which speaks well for the technique described below. Let’s get to it.

For chicken:

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) chicken rinsed and patted dry

3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

For pan gravy:

3/4 cup chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth

3/4 cup water

1 Tbs cornstarch, stirred together with 1 Tbs water

lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer


Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 400F.

Stir together salt and pepper in a small cup and rub all over chicken, inside and out. Put chicken on a rack in a small flameproof roasting pan and pour butter over it, then turn it onto one side.


Roast chicken for 25 minutes.


Baste with pan juices, then turn it over to opposite side and roast for 25 minutes more.


Turn chicken breast side up, baste with pan juices, and continue to roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of a thigh (without touching bone) registers 170 F, about 20 minutes.

[This is the picture from before.]


Tilt chicken to drain juices from cavity into roasting pan, then transfer it to a platter and let stand for 15 minutes.


Transfer pan juices to 1 1/2-quart saucepan and skim off fat. Put roasting pan on a burner, add stock and water, and deglaze pan by boiling over moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, for 1 minute.


Add stock mixture to pan juices and bring to a boil. Stir cornstarch mixture and whisk into pan juices, then boil, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.


Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut chicken into serving pieces and serve with gravy.

As you can see, I served mine with potatoes:


How did I make the potatoes?

We’ve covered this before. Just cut up little red potatoes–in halves or quarters–toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast on a cookie sheet in the oven with the chicken for an hour. As you can see, I took the thyme from the BC chicken recipe and put it on the potatoes instead of the chicken:


This was a nice touch. I’ll definitely do it again if I have extra thyme next time I make chicken.

Which leads to the question: when I make chicken next time, will I make BC chicken or this Gourmet chicken recipe? I’m not going to lie: it’s the BC. I’m all about maximum flavor. This Gourmet chicken is good for subtle people who want pure chicken flavor. But the Gourmet technique is one I might put to use with the BC recipe: the rotating the chicken as it cooks may have helped brown the skin, but I also think it kept the chicken moister somehow. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m making it up.

As for my Jewishness, you already know I broke my fast early. But I did it in a very Jewish way: I had a bagel at Murray’s with very Jewish cream cheese. And I spotted other Jews there too so I didn’t feel too bad. And unlike them, I knew that my Jewish street cred was way higher: I swung serious fowl the night before. Serious Amish fowl. That Amish part may not be a Jewish custom, but for Adamists it’s absolutely essential. Bonus points if your chicken has a beard and a funny hat.

14 thoughts on “Swinging Some Serious Fowl: Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy”

  1. Maybe my squinting isn’t what it used to be, but it looks liek you paid 3.90 a POUND FOR A ROAST CHICKEN?!?! We can get organic, all-natural Amish farm chickens at the grocery store for 1.50 a lb.

    Was the cavity filled with something valuable? Say, gasoline?

  2. Mr. A.G.,

    Your chicken looks delicious, but I thought I’d take this moment to explain that you’ve skipped a step in the tradition. The tradition of kapparot involves a live (i.e. “bok! bok!”) chicken which a rabbi swings over your head while you say the prayer. After the chicken has done its work for the day, swinging over a myriad of heads, it is slaughtered and fed to the poor. This practice can be done with a bag of money also, but that’s not as fun as thinking a chicken may be about to crap on your head.

  3. I’ve heard of a theory for why rotating fowl while cooking it keeps it moist – it is because it keeps the juices in the meat, not all dripping out. My mother cooks the moistest and tastiest turkey, and her secret is that she cooks it upside down so more of the juices stay in the breast instead of dripping out the bottom.

  4. Yes, among the many cooking classes I took at the Culinary Arts School, one of my instructors said we should cook a turkey upside down so the juices would run IN rather than out. But I like this idea of rotating the chicken (“bok! bok!”) What about putting half a lemon in the cavity, as well as salt/pepper?

    Maybe for the pudadoes I can switch out thyme for fresh rosemary, which I just bought.

    Question: The melted butter went all over the bird, correct?

  5. I’m 95% vegetarian, but whenever I smell roasted chicken being cooked in someones house I turn into a shark ready for the hunt. Their’s nothing more heavenly and comforting. And the Amish bird is probably free range and organic, no?

  6. I found your blog through an article in my local “alternative news weekly,” and I’m already amused and entranced.

    By the way, the Gourmet method for roasting chicken is very similar to the Best Recipe method. I think they must be on to something with all that buttering and turning. Lemon, thyme, and garlic sounds pretty awesome too, though – good thing I have a (non-Amish) bird in my fridge and leftover thyme in the freezer.

  7. Mmmm…. it looks scrumptious!

    I am all about roasted chicken. The best chicken I’ve ever had came when I was working at the historical society, and was cooking all day over an open hearth. One day, my boss hauled out the tin kitchen (aka: reflector oven), complete with spit that could be rotated and stuck in place. The potatoes and carrots were placed below the roasting chicken, to cook in its juices (which were also used to baste the chicken itself).

    Given that I have no open hearth, but an electric range, I’ll have to give your version a try! (;

  8. Hi,

    I really like you blog and sense of humor! This chicken looks very fine. I love roasted chicken and especially to make a delicious sauce with it’s juices…

    Please, come and visit my blog which is all about international and Swiss cuisine.



  9. Just a quick note of thanks…

    I printed out your instructions and used an organic chicken. I turned the chicken 2x and left it for 30 minutes a turn, basting in between. Finally I put it breast-side up and left it in another 40 minutes (because duh, I can’t find my thermometer). The skin was crispy and it was de-gorgeous.

    Also I got lazy and used canned gravy (horrors), but I did scrape up the bits from the roasting pan with the chicken juice, and added it to the canned gravy — then added 1 tablespoon & then some from half a lemon. Absolutely finger-licking delectable. I never thought to put lemon juice in gravy, but it makes it tart and adds depth & flavor.

    My husband thinks I’m a domestic goddess, and I do, too. Thanks again.

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