The Epic Chicken Roast

Nothing is more comforting than a perfectly roasted chicken. Cure the winter blues and (perhaps) Covid/Omicron too.

I botched this dish half a dozen times before I got it right. And when you do, yes, it’s a buzzkill. Burnt skin, veggies that roast away to nothing, and when you try to truss a chicken AFTER you ensconce it with butter, it’s on par with trying to catch a live chicken yourself.

Think that’s easy? Watch Rocky try to do it – they are spry little f*ckers!

I’m being forthright because through trial and error, I perfected this dish. When you are a weekend family cook and you learn how to NAIL a meal, you earn the right to get a little cocky.

There are three key tips you have to pay attention to. Screw one up… the chicken wins.

#1 – Buy a free-range organic chicken

Free of preservatives and fresh from a trusted market, you can tell it’s the real deal if you find a few feather tendrils remaining on the bird. If you’re local to North Jersey, Goffle Road Poultry Farm is fantastic. Pick up a six-pounder and plan to cook it the day of (or the following). Remember, there are zero additives, which gives it a unique and wonderful taste.

#2 – Use ‘Roastable’ Veggies

Thin onions or celery will burn like a disco inferno. You’ve got to choose the right veggies. Carrots, golden beets, turnips, whole shallots, and small potatoes are perfect. Onions need to be quartered and coated with salt/olive oil separately before you add it to the pan (more on that in a bit). Once prepped, you drop them in the roasting pan and coat them with olive oil and salt. Use your hands and jostle them around.

#3 – Tenting the Bird

I learned this trick from the greatest cook I ever met—my Grandma, Charlotte. Halfway through the roast, check and see if the skin is getting to dark. Then tent it with folded tin foil. Crease the tin and use enough to cover the top of the bird.

How to Prep

First, take the bird out of the fridge 1-2 hours before. Rinse under cold water, pluck any remaining tendrils and let it get to room temperature. This is a standard process when one cooks meat. Otherwise, the bird takes longer to cook inside than out when it’s placed in the oven.

The veggies need to be in big chunk-size pieces. They will be roasting for 1 ½ hours so they need bulk to withstand the heat. Elephant garlic, if you can find it, adds exceptional flavor. The juices and flavor from the bird provide some moisture which is absorbed by the veggies that remain beneath it. Reciprocally, the veggies let off moisture which keeps the bird from becoming too dry. Use large quartered onions and oil/salt them separately in a dish so they stay whole. Use them generously as they will give off a ton of liquids. Here are some sizing examples to refer to:

Stuff the chicken with quartered onions and two halves of a whole garlic. Leave enough room to jam some clumps of fresh thyme in the cavity. Bulk up that bird’s body cavity!

Tress the bird using more tying string than you think you need.

Melt roughly ¼ of a stick of butter in a pan after you place the bird on top of the veggies. Try to nudge the wings tips under the bird. Roughhouse it so it sits properly. Wings, like in-laws, can be fussy (exception: my in-laws are not in case they read this). Take a brush and butter the skin of the chicken on all surfaces.

Do this AFTER you place the chicken on top of the veggies. I once dropped a whole bird on the floor. The five-second rule saved me. Next, sprinkle the bird with a mix of spices:

Salt

Pepper

Paprika

Granulated garlic

It’s up to you how much to use of each. A bit more salt is necessary—it draws moisture out the bird. If garlic is not your thing, dial it back and up the paprika. Pepper is good here because some spices will drip down and mix with the veggies, which tastes amazing. You don’t want to dry rub the bird – sprinkle too much and the veggies will lose their natural taste. I also spice the bird after it’s resting on the veggies.

The Cook

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and cook for 1 ½ hours.
  • Check the bird if it needs ‘tenting’ about 45 minutes in, and if it’s not ready, check every 15 minutes thereafter.
  • Internal temperature when finished: The bird should be 165 degrees. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before dismembering.

That’s it, and wait until you smell the flavors coming out of your oven! Your ego will go into overdrive! The smell of the veggies roasting in the bottom of the pan, absorbing all the flavors of the chicken, thyme, onion, and garlic is incredible. Your guests’ mouths will water like Niagara Falls, which can be messy so keep a mop and a bucket handy. There’s nothing worse than a pool of saliva, which may prompt a trip to the emergency room.

Here are the end results – the cooked bird and the served dish. Just slice up the chicken, scoop out the veggies, and serve in a neat and proper fashion. So comforting!

What, may you ask, is better than a roasted chicken on a cold day in the era of Covid? Getting laid, and there’s a good chance you will when you serve this to your better half.

REFERENCE VIDEO: I do not do everything Ina Garten recommends, but you may find this video helpful to prep for the cook. She’s a bit cocky and roasted fennel doesn’t do it for me, but she’s a pro.

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