2011 was a very important year for me. At the end of 2010, I ended a long and toxic relationship and decided to move to Portland. It wasn’t that far, mileage wise. But it was the best decision I have ever made for myself. In January 2011, I drove a U-haul to my new home in Portland, a huge, drafty old house that I would share with two grad students. In 2011 I learned how to feed myself for twenty dollars a week. I learned how to be single and how to date. In 2011 I met my husband and finally realized what being in love was actually like. It was also the year I turned 30. Basically, 2011 was the year I realized I was a grown ass woman.
One important life skill that I learned in early 2011 was how to roast a chicken. Now, let me explain to you why I think that every grown ass adult should know how to roast a chicken (if you eat chicken, that is. If not…please ignore). A roasted chicken is one of those meals that seems really fancy and difficult, but it is actually really simple. Not only that, but it is so economical. Remember when I said I learned how to feed myself for $20/week? Those were the rough weeks, for sure, but it was not uncommon. If I found a good sale on a whole chicken, I could find one for around five dollars. And then I could usually get 3-4 more meals out of it (I was only feeding myself, but a chicken usually makes about 4 servings). I would eat some the night I roasted it, then use the leftover meat for salads, soups, or to serve with pasta or on homemade pizza. Cheap and convenient.
A roasted chicken is a great recipe to have in your back pocket to impress people. Whoever you want to make a good impression on, nothing says “I have my shit together” like a clean kitchen and a chicken roasting in the oven. I know there has been a recipe floating around the internet for awhile called “engagement chicken”. The idea is that someone makes this chicken for their significant other, and shortly thereafter they are engaged! I think the message is that you can snag a man by cooking him a great meal? I’m not sure how I feel about that message, but I did make this for my husband on more than one occasion before we got engaged, so you can draw your own conclusions on that one. This chicken recipe is actually not based on the engagement chicken, but is from Ina Garten’s “Perfect Roast Chicken” recipe. Since I am not Ina, I’m not going to call this perfect, but I will tell you that it is pretty great.
The vegetables that you roast are up to you, but I do think that the onion and carrots are pretty important because they are aromatics. Plus the onions are delicious and the carrots roast up like candy. The potatoes and parsnips are optional. I really like how the Yukon gold potatoes get really brown and crispy on the side facing the pan. They have a great texture, I prefer them to red potatoes or any other kind, but if you don’t want to eat potatoes you can leave them out. I don’t always include parsnips, but I really like them so I sometimes will throw them in. And the garlic! I leave the cloves in their skin, and after they are done they will pop right out. Soft and sweet, they are great spread on bread – or just for eating, if you avoid bread. But if you do eat bread, now is the time. (It is slightly more dignified to use bread to sop up the sauce instead of licking your plate).
I like to roast this on a Sunday, because Sunday is usually a lazy, puttering around the house day. And this chicken is not difficult, but it takes some time to make, so is not the best weeknight meal. I love that it is a one pan meal. Once you throw it in the oven, it is hands off for an hour and a half, giving you time to clean your kitchen, or organize your files or whatever else it is that adults do.
A few important notes about this recipe. The first thing is that I learned the hard way that often when you buy a whole chicken at the store, it is still partially frozen. It may seem like it is not, but it very likely is. It is best to buy the chicken a day or two before you want to roast it so that you know it is completely thawed. Bringing it out of the fridge an hour before cooking and letting it come up to room temperature will also help the chicken to cook more evenly. Doing these things will make sure that you don’t end up cutting into a partially raw chicken (it has happened to me. More than once).
The next thing is trussing the chicken. Trussing the chicken is tying it up with kitchen twine so that is cooks more evenly and it looks prettier. Once you get the hang of it, trussing is super easy, and will make you feel like a kitchen rock star. It is also a good skill to have when cooking a turkey. If you don’t know how to truss a chicken, HERE is a helpful video.
The last thing is the type of pan you use. I think a good roasting pan is a great tool to have in the kitchen. I bought my first (cheap) roasting pan years ago the day before I hosted Thanksgiving. That trusty pan served me well for a few years, until the nonstick coating started to flake off (yikes!). When it was time to replace it, Mr. Briar did some research and found THIS one (<affiliate). I like it because it is multi-clad (great at evenly heating), has a flat surface on the bottom and is NOT nonstick. It is so good at browning and caramelizing the vegetables. Also, you can put it on the stovetop, so it’s great for making pan gravy on Thanksgiving. I really recommend having a good roasting pan, but if you don’t have one yet, you can make do with a large baking dish. Just place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
- 1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes quartered
- 4 carrots peeled and chopped into 2 inch chunks (set aside 2-3 small pieces)
- 3 parsnips peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks. optional
- 1 large onion sliced into wedges (set aside 2-3 small pieces)
- 8 or more garlic cloves not peeled
- 1 large bunch of fresh thyme set aside 20 sprigs
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
- About an hour before cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and set on the counter to allow to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F
- Place chopped vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan with about 20 sprigs of thyme. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the vegetables with oil. Arrange in a single layer on the bottom of the roasting pan. Turn each piece so that the cut side of all the pieces are facing down (this will help them to get nicely brown and caramelized.)
- Place roasting rack on top of vegetables (if you don't have a roasting rack, you can put the chicken directly on top of the vegetables). Place chicken on roasting rack (be sure all giblets are removed from the inside of the chicken. Also check the neck cavity - sometimes they hide them in there).
- Liberally season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Insert a few small pieces of onion and carrot into the cavity, along with the rest of the thyme sprigs.
- Tuck the wings under the chicken and use kitchen twine to truss the chicken.
- Brush melted butter all over the outside of the chicken, then liberally season with kosher salt and pepper. This is what is going to get the skin nice and crispy, so don't be stingy with the salt.
- Transfer roasting pan to oven and roast chicken for about 90 minutes, or until juices run clear and a thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into thigh.
- Allow to sit for 20 minutes before cutting. Cut chicken and serve with roasted vegetables.
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken
Have you had a pivotal year in your life? What makes you feel like an adult?
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