This is one of my favorite meals, one I never tire of. It makes me feel good having eaten it, and it usually leaves plenty of leftovers or at least enough for a second meal of soup. I love to serve it with simple mashed potatoes because they are so easy and delicious and quick to prepare; they can be made well before the chicken is done (they’ll keep for hours—just don’t let them get cold). Green beans are likewise inexpensive, easy, and tasty, buttered and seasoned simply with lemon zest and salt. The only key to making this easy on yourself is to make sure you’ve done the shopping ahead of time.
Later on I’ll show ways to cut down on the time if you don’t have much but still want a roast chicken, but here I assume you control all your time. You will need to allow for 90 minutes of total cooking time (after your oven is hot), and plan to spend about 45 minutes actually in the kitchen. So plan ahead. Say you want dinner on the table at 7 p.m. but don’t want to be rushed. Then you’ll want the chicken to go into the oven at 5:30, which means turning on your oven at 5:10 or so. Chicken in at 5:30, out at 6:30 to rest while you complete the meal, served by 7. If you’re quick with a knife and generally deft in the kitchen, you can shave 10 or 15 minutes off the 45 minutes of actual cooking, but if you don’t have to rush, take your time and enjoy the process.
Of particular note here is how the jus comes together in the cooking pan. The pan will contain plenty of flavorful fat and juices from the bird that will condense on the bottom of the pan. Wine adds its own flavor as it deglazes, lifting the stuck skin and browned bits, or fond, from the pan. Thinly sliced carrot and onion add aromatic sweetness to the sauce. And the two complete reductions allow those juices, as well as the sugars extracted from the vegetables, to brown and develop even more flavor. All of this takes place in 15 minutes or so to create a delectable and nutritious jus to finish the meal.
And finally, oven temperature. The chicken cooks best at 450°F/230°C. But this is well above the smoke point for animal fats, and any residue in a dirty oven, so it helps to have good ventilation and a clean oven. If you don’t have both, use a lower temperature, 425°F/218°C, to avoid smoking yourself out of the kitchen.
Rinse your chicken and dry it inside and out (I discard the liver, and reserve the gizzard and heart for the sauce, but feel free to discard all).
Zest the lemon, reserving the zest. Put the zested lemon in the carcass of the bird. Truss the bird if you want a gorgeous presentation. The best way to learn to truss a chicken is to watch a video of it. (Go to ruhlman.com and search “how to truss a chicken” to see my colleague Brian Polcyn do an impromptu demonstration. If you do truss, you don’t need to put the lemon in the carcass. Both trussing and inserting a lemon will prevent hot air from circulating inside the cavity, which can overcook the breast.
Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt; you should have a nice crusty layer of it across the whole bird. Put the bird, breast side up, in an oven-safe skillet and into the hot oven for 1 hour.
About 30 minutes after putting the chicken in the oven, begin preparing the rest of the meal.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into six or eight even pieces. Put them in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and put the pan over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to medium to maintain a good simmer (but not a heavy boil). Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until you can insert a paring knife into the potatoes with little to no resistance.
Meanwhile, put another saucepan of water over high heat, for the beans. Trim the stem ends from the beans.
Scrub or peel the carrot, then cut off the ends. Cut the carrot into ribbons using a vegetable peeler (or slice it thinly; the thinner the pieces, the better the flavor of the jus). Peel and thinly slice the onion.
When the potatoes are done, drain them in a colander or strainer and set them aside. In the same pan, combine the milk,
Just before pulling the chicken from the oven, put the beans in the boiling water and
Remove the chicken from the oven. Pull the chicken out of the pan, leaving behind any skin stuck to the bottom of the pan, and place it on a cutting board with a moat or on a plate (the bird will drop juices as it finishes cooking). Add the heart and gizzard to the pan, if using. Put the pan over high heat and allow the juices to reduce in the fat for a minute or so. Cut the wing tips and wing flats off the bird. Add them to the pan (or eat the flats as a treat while you cook; if you eat them, add the bones to the skillet if you wish). Add the carrot and onion to the pan. Stir them to coat them with the chicken fat and cook till they’re tender, another minute or two.
To make the jus, add the wine to the pan and bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged spoon. Stir until all the wine has cooked off and the fat has begun to crackle again. Add
When the beans are done (and this may happen while your jus is reducing), drain them and return them to the pot, then add the remaining
Reheat the potatoes if necessary by returning them to medium heat and adding a few tablespoons or so of milk until they are the consistency you like.
Cut the chicken into six pieces, taking each breast off along with the wing drumette, and each leg, then cutting them into drumstick and thigh pieces.
Serve the chicken with the potatoes and beans. Strain the sauce into a bowl for the table or simply spoon the sauce straight from the pan, without the vegetables, over the chicken.
© 2019 All rights reserved. Published by Abrams Books.