If I had to pick one dish that evokes feelings of nostalgia and love, it would have to be the roast chicken.
In our house growing up, my mother made many roast chickens and she always served it with traditional rice pilaf. Armenians, like many cultures celebrate the intimate association of chicken with rice. To Armenians, “chicken and pilaf” is technically one word.
A roast chicken dinner was a centering meal, providing great comfort in its familiarity. It was the kind of dinner that had subtitles such as “I love you (now eat some chicken)”, “Let’s celebrate (I will make a chicken)”, “Things will be fine, don’t worry honey (chickenandpilaf is for dinner)”. You get the point.
After I had left the nest, but long before I thought of attending culinary school, I made Herb-Roasted Chicken with Baked Shallots from Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook, one of the first cookbooks I owned, a Christmas gift from my father is 1988 ( we always sign gift books!). Looking back at the splattered page, I clearly made that recipe quite a bit over the years.
I’ve brought the consistency of a roast chicken dinner to my roles as wife and mother and it’s a meal nobody is disappointed to see on constant rotation, including our dog who we swear knows when it’s being made (yes, maybe she has had some once or twice). While Martha’s recipe called for a large roaster, between 5 and 6 pounds, I now like to cook smaller chickens – between 3 and 4 pounds which for me are more tender, especially the dark meat. I’ve tweaked the cooking method a bit and quite honestly, my recipe for Easy Roast Chicken is more like a general guideline which allows you to customize your chicken using flavoring agents you have on hand in your kitchen.
So since it’s the weekend of Valentine’s Day, I thought I should post this dish that our family equates with expressing love.
But before I committed to sharing Easy Roast Chicken, I really wanted to try a recipe I had been given last summer by my friend Mary. It’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s website for Chicken in Milk, more of a wintery dish thus the delay in the making. I know – sounds like a crazy combination doesn’t it? A whole chicken is browned on the stove top, and then cooked in the oven with milk, lemon zest, garlic, a handful of sage leaves and a cinnamon stick. The chicken is so tender it literally falls off the bone and the milky-lemony sauce is studded with curds that are so yummy.
I served it to my Valentine this past week who is such a good sport about this food blogging thing and knows that almost every first bite he takes is going to be accompanied with the question, “Is it blog-worthy, H?”. His answer? He really enjoyed Chicken in Milk, but he preferred my Easy Roast Chicken. Awwww.
My thoughts on Chicken with Milk is that you should definitely give it a try. I thought is was unusually delicious with the combination of milk and lemon which created lovely curds, a hint of warmth from the cinnamon and some depth from the sage and garlic. I will definitely make it again and here is a link to the kitchn’s review of the recipe with helpful tips.
So, Easy Roast Chicken. Here’s what you need:
Chicken – my rule here is to purchase the best one you can afford. My preference is the kosher brand, Bell & Evans, but I also purchase chickens at my local farm, Wilson’s in Lexington, Massachusetts which I believe is selling the same product under private label – am investigating this.
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper – chicken tastes like what you put on it and in it. Season it generously with both of these ingredients at a minimum. You can get crazy and add some Herbes de Provence if you’d like.
Aromatics – this is where you go into your vegetable drawer and look at what’s on your counter and combine as you see fit. I like to take stray garlic cloves, shallots, an orange or a lemon, and any herbs that I have in the bin and stuff them into the cavity of the bird. I particularly love to take a whole head of garlic, slice the top off and put that in the cavity for a really delicious flavor.
Temperature – 375 degrees. I do not subscribe to the high-low theory of chicken cookery. One temperature, leave it alone for roughly 1 1/2 hours.
Basting – if I am in the mood, but generally I am not.
Trussing – see basting.
Washing the chicken – I do not. My mother used to religiously and I did too until I read an article suggesting you have a higher risk of cross contaminating your kitchen by doing this, than by leaving the chicken alone. Here’s a different article from NPR on the topic.
Pans and Racks – I have roasted my chickens on foil lined pans, in cast iron skillets, on racks, on root vegetables and decadently on slices of bread which are a cook’s treat and can be shared if necessary. I like my chicken to be exposed to the heat of the oven for the most even browning so a high pan is not optimal.
Some of the benefits of making Easy Roast Chicken? It goes with almost anything, the oven does all the work, leftovers can be used for anything from sandwiches to quesadillas or soups, and most importantly, it allows you to spend more time with those you love, rather than sweating over the stove.
I hope you have an occasion to make your version of my Easy Roast Chicken sometime soon. Snap a picture and send it to me or if you are on Instagram, use the hashtag #thekitchenscout so I can see what you’ve made!
And a big PS! If you try a recipe and really like it, I would so appreciate your commenting directly on the blog (and still send me texts and emails – they truly make my day!). And if you do comment or ask a question on the blog, as of right now you need to go back to the blog to see my answer (I always try to answer). We are working on a system to allow you to have the option to be notified by email that I’ve answered, but until then, that’s the scoop!
I hope you all have a nice weekend.
One Year Ago: Glazed Chocolate Cake
- One 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chicken, preferably antibiotic and hormone free
- Kosher Salt, about 1 Tablespoon
- Freshly ground black pepper, about 1/2 Tablespoon
- Aromatics: Any combination of fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary are my favorites), citrus fruits cut in half, peeled shallots or onions, unpeeled garlic cloves, ginger
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven.
- Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan that is covered in foil. You can also put the chicken on a bed of vegetables or on a couple of slices of bread or directly on the foil if you coat it lightly with some non-stick spray. You can also do this in a cast iron pan.
- Season the chicken generously with the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Stuff cavity of chicken with your preferred aromatics.
- Cook the chicken for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until juices between thigh and leg run clear when pierced with a knife.
- Let chicken stand for roughly 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
Thanks, as always, for a wonderful post Val. Roast chicken is in heavy rotation at our house as well and I would love to have your mother’s traditional pilaf recipe!
Thanks, Francine! I would be happy to share it! I may need to make it a blog post! Hope all is well.
Delicious sounding as always. Will be on this week’s rotation.
Thanks, Ellen! I hope you enjoy it. Definitely good cold weather dish!
I didn’t realize how much I was hankering for roast chicken until reading your blog! Perfect meal for s snowy weekend. Will try roasting in my new cast iron skillet (which was a Christmas gift from my son, the chef!). Love the idea of roasting on top of bread.
Once you’ve tasted that bread, you may not go back! I really love my cast iron pans. Am using them more and more these days. Enjoy!