Do you need another roast chicken recipe in your repertoire? This question consumed me as I considered whether the recipe I prepared for our Sunday supper this past weekend was blog worthy. Turns out, I think you might.
If there are two things that I never, ever tire of cooking or learning new approaches to make utterly delicious, it is first the iconic chocolate chip cookie and second, the roast chicken.
First, the cookie. While I am admittedly a fan of the tried and true Toll House recipe, there are infinite options to make my favorite cookie more appealing. I’ve tried so many recipes that I probably should have a dedicated file just for them alone. One of the most interesting and complex was this version by David Lebovitz that uses buckwheat flour, cacao nibs and lots of nuts. They were as tasty as they were pretty. Thankfully, chocolate chip cookies are one of the treats that my husband loves so they never go to waste, or they end up in our freezer ready to enjoy at a moment’s notice.
As for the chicken, maybe you have tried one of the versions already here on the blog. My Easy Roast Chicken is just as it sounds. Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley was my slightly adjusted version of the classic dish served at Boston’s Hammersley’s Bistro. And finally, Skillet Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives is perfect when you are short on time. But why stop there?
From past posts, you may recall that I often borrow newly published cookbooks from the library first to see if I want to add them to my collection. I would say that I purchase maybe one out of ten. More often, I just copy recipes that interest me and lately, I also copy the cover of the cookbook because this helps me remember the recipe’s source if the pages aren’t marked well.
Sometimes, like with today’s recipe, I forget to copy its second page! Sooo frustrating especially with popular books. Thankfully, the author of this particular recipe, Alison Roman is a darling of the food world right now so her recipes are published and republished many times over. The internet saved the day.
Do you know of Alison? Many of you probably do. She is a columnist for the New York Times food section who has also authored two cookbooks, Dining In and most recently, Nothing Fancy which coincidentally has as its cover photo, a roast chicken. She is young, hip and writes her recipes in almost a conversational tone which really appeals to me both as a cook and a recipe writer. Sometimes, you just want to share the nuance of cooking a dish within the written word, whispering into the ear of the reader almost, to make sure they get good results. This is good, productive writing. And she gives her recipes fun, engaging titles. I like her. You’ll see when you read the recipe below, most of which are her words (remember, second page not copied!).
I’ve had good luck with most of Alison’s recipes I’ve tried from the New York Times and her books (I own Dining In). And today’s recipe for One-Pot Chicken with Dates and Caramelized Onions from her book, Nothing Fancy (which I borrowed from the library), is no exception.
However, the only thing I take exception with is the idea that a roast chicken might be construed as “nothing fancy”. For some people, the mere feat of roasting a whole chicken is as fancy as they will get in the kitchen and that is awesome. To me, a roast chicken, the ultimate blank slate, is quite fancy both to cook and receive as an appreciative diner.
Now, what is it about this particular version that has me so excited?
I loved the cooking method. First you take the whole chicken and brown the bottom in a Dutch oven. Easy enough. Then you add some shallots and a sliced lemon to the bottom of the pot and sizzle them up for a few minutes, after which you sprinkle the chicken with some spicy pepper and add some pitted dates and a cup of water to the pot. Covered, the pot goes into a hot oven where it cooks for 25 minutes. The cover comes off, some oil is drizzle onto the skin and the chicken cooks another 30 minutes or so until its done.
What you are left with is a super moist chicken, jammy dates and lemons, sweet onions and the bonus – a beautifully viscous sauce at the bottom of the pan. A sauce? With no work? Now that is some kind of magic in my book. It was so tasty and my family loved it.
Do you need another roast chicken in your life? I think so – and this one will certainly do!
I use my mother’s trusty Le Creuset dutch oven (size 28/7.25 quarts) which holds the heat so incredibly well. It’s like a little oven within the oven for anything you are roasting, ensuring even cooking…
One note. Alison calls for 2 teaspoons of Urfa chiles to be sprinkled on top of the skin prior to cooking. As an alternative she suggests 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. I used 1 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper which I had on hand with great, slightly spicy results. I think you can omit the hot pepper and still get lovely results. She also suggests you can use chicken parts, thighs preferably, which you would sear skin side down in the first step and then flip over before putting into the oven.
Oh and back to the conversation about chocolate chip cookies, Roman’s Salted Butter and Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies were one of Dining In’s most beloved recipes. Dough is a little tricky having made them just once but the results are very tasty.
Until next time…
Recipe from Alison Roman's Nothing Fancy cookbook. A one pot roast chicken that is as moist and tender as any you will find. Jammy dates and lemon slices, sweet onions and a luscious pan sauce are added bonuses. If you don't care for spicy skin, I think you can omit the hot pepper and the results will still be lovely. Alison suggests you can use chicken parts, thighs preferably, which you would sear skin side down in the first step and then flip over before putting into the oven.
- 3 1/2-4 pound chicken
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 lemon, cut into thick slices crosswise, seeds removed
- 2 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 4-6 medjool dates, pitted (1 per person to be served in my opinion)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme plus more for serving
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons ground Urfa chile or 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Flaky sea salt for serving
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in the middle.
- Season chicken all over (top and bottom) with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat (I used a 7.25 quart size which is the smallest you can do with this recipe). Place the chicken in the post breast side up, and using your tongs or hands (be careful!), press lightly to make sure the skin comes into even contact with the pot bottom. This is your chance to brown the legs and render that's excess fat! It's rarely offered in whole-chicken recipes, so take advantage.
- Cook, without moving, until the chicken is nice and browned, about 5-8 minutes. Seriously, no peeking! Nothing exciting will happen before 5 minutes, I promise you.
- Add the lemon slices and shallot, maneuvering the chicken however you need so that the slices come into contact with the bottom of the pot. Don't worry about smooshing the lemons. Let everything sizzle in the chicken fat until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
- Add the dates, thyme sprigs and water. Sprinkle red pepper over chicken if using; cover. Roast in oven until dates are plump and chicken is well under way with its cooking, 20-25 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and drizzle the chicken with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered until liquid has reduce by half, and chicken is golden brown, 20-30 minutes. A thermometer should register 160 degrees when inserted into the breast, if using.
- Let chicken rest in the pot for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and carve. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, flaky salt and serve with roasted shallots, lemon slices, dates and the luscious sauce at the bottom of the pan. Enjoy!
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Thanks Val! My daughter and I are obsessed with Alison Roman. Love her crispy mushrooms and farro dish. I’ll definitely try this! …and maybe the chocolate chip cookies too 🙂