You've heard it before. Roast chicken truly is one of the easiest main courses to cook and the most versatile. You can dress it up or down.
Armed with just the two basic ingredients, chicken and salt, I've cooked fryer and roaster birds in ovens big and small, decrepit and new, countertop and mammoth professionals. Before we had kids, I roasted chickens in an ancient gas range in our city apartment during renovations. After a day of hanging drywall and grouting tile, we created a makeshift table from wooden sawhorses and a plank of paneling. Then, we enjoyed a bird coated in curry paste accompanied by a green salad and crusty bread.
When the children were little, we roasted simply seasoned chickens in a trusty almond-colored Sears range for birthday celebrations. Whole chicken also was the first dish we cooked after moving into our suburban family home. I cooked it in a tired-looking kitchen with an oven prone to losing its door. No matter, the chicken emerged juicy and the house smelled like home.
Our beautifully renovated kitchen yielded countless chicken dinners with young teens, extended family, friends, and recently, our first grandchild.
This month, we will move from that home of 20 years. I roasted a chicken in the sleek, much-beloved Wolf range as our last meal there — complete with a flavorful coating on the skin and a tray of like-seasoned vegetables. We couldn't gather the family, but comfort ensued.
My roasting pans already rest in their new cabinet in preparation for our first roast chicken dinner in the wall oven at our new townhome. I plan to open the windows to let the aromas escape so our new neighbors get a true sense of our style.
These days, whole chickens can be easier to procure than boneless chicken parts. Adjust the cooking time for the size chicken you can find. A 3-pound bird cooks in 50 to 60 minutes. Larger chickens, closer to 5 pounds need about 1 1/4 hours at 400 degrees. When done, the juices should run clear when you pierce the thigh with the tip of a knife.
All in all, the only real trick to roasting chickens? Heat. For golden skin, turn on the convection setting on the oven, if it's available. Or, fully heat a conventional oven to 400 degrees. Keep the heat high during the complete cook time.
Chicken roasted plainly with just salt tastes fantastic. For variety, I add herbs and spices. This spring, my fascination with everything bagel seasoning mix — that blend trend that took off in recent years — inspired a coating for chicken and vegetables. A bit of smoked paprika, dried basil and oregano adds color and flavor.
After the chicken is in the oven, I prepare vegetables to roast alongside. In the recipe that follows, I add small new potatoes to the chicken pan part-way through the cooking. That way they can roll around and absorb the flavorful pan juices.
A sheet pan or two of eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onions makes a great accompaniment to the chicken. I make enough for leftovers for another dinner or to serve with eggs for brunch. Season the vegetables with the same blend of spices as you used for the chicken.
The pan juices from the chicken taste amazing. Spoon the mixture over the carved chicken for a rich, but simple topping. I also like to save them to stir into a bowl of hot, cooked egg noodles (or rice) with shreds of the chicken and a heaping spoonful of the roasted vegetables.
Roast chicken. Family comfort for any home.