It occurred to me last Thursday that one of the best recipes in my repertoire isn’t even something that I consider a recipe. It’s a thing that I’ve done for years and years–I talked about it in my video “How To Roast a Chicken”–and, yet, when I look at it by itself, separate from the main event, this thing that I do is pretty extraordinary. And that’s cutting small potatoes in half and placing them cut-side down around a whole chicken before it goes into the oven.
Actually, I toss the potato halves with a few garlic cloves (still in their skins), olive oil, salt and pepper first and then place them cut-side down around a whole chicken. Unlike Thomas Keller’s recipe for roast chicken, which I also love, there aren’t a bevy of other vegetables (carrots, leeks) there to provide moisture. Since no leached vegetable liquid mixes in with these potatoes, they get coated in all the chicken fat that renders out of the chicken as it roasts. And then the potatoes fry.
And what you wind up with, one hour later, are chicken fat fried potatoes. I never thought about them that way, but that’s what they are and let me tell you, on the plate there with pieces of roast chicken and a big dollop of mustard, dinner doesn’t get much better than this:
The best part is, once you remove the chicken from the roasting pan, you can use a metal spatula to scrape all the brown, caramelized chicken bits in with the fried potatoes to make them extra decadent.
I’d offer up a recipe, but really all you need is a roasting pan, a pound of small potatoes (red ones work well, but white ones work too), and a whole chicken (about 4 pounds). You can season that chicken however you want (most recently I crushed coriander seeds and fennel seeds in my mortar and pestle and mixed up that mixture with salt and pepper, sprinkled it inside and outside of the bird and stuffed the inside with fresh thyme). Plop the chicken–which should be close to room temperature (not chilly from the fridge)–in the center of a roasting pan, breast-side up. You don’t have to truss it, but you can.
Preheat the oven to 425 and get those potatoes in position: remember, slice them in half, toss them with a few whole garlic cloves still in their skins, a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then place them all cut-side down as close to the bird as you can.
Then into the oven it goes for about an hour. The best way to know if the chicken’s done is to use a thermometer between the thigh and leg; shoot for about 170 (though I’ve been known to take it out at 165. You’ll let it rest and it’ll continue to cook as you do.)
Lift the chicken on to a plate and allow it to rest for 10 minutes or so. Then, when you’re ready to serve, cut it up (into legs, thighs, breast, wings, etc.) and scrape those potatoes up with a metal spatula, incorporating all of the brown bits from the pan. Sneak a few for yourself in the kitchen, you deserve it.
Those potatoes rival even the best French fries, they’re so coated in chickeny goodness. It’s a recipe that deserves its own post, which is why I wrote this one.
P.S. You can eat the garlic too. Pop ’em out of their skins and depending on their size, they may either be slightly burnt and crunchy or–and this is the ideal–golden on the outside and creamy on the inside.