To me, few things in life exude home and comfort as well as a good roast chicken. There’s something hugely satisfying about pulling a glistening, golden brown bird from the oven and watching the fat shimmer on the skin. And the aroma . . . if they could bottle it, it would be called “what home should smell like on a chilly evening.” For some reason, though, many really good home cooks are intimidated by the notion of a whole bird. The truth is that a whole chicken is probably one of the simplest, most foolproof dinners you can make. Buy a good-quality bird (ideally it should be free-range and organic, but I admit that’s not always possible), rub it with olive oil, season it well with salt and pepper, and roast it for an hour (more or less depending on weight) at 400°F. That’s it. Or stuff some fresh tarragon into the cavity and under the skin. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano all work, too. Or slice an onion to throw in the pan. Or . . . well, the options really are limitless. Then either serve it for dinner and use the leftovers for a pizza the next night, or tear it apart and fill your freezer with small portions of lovely roast chicken for future pizzas, pastas, salads, and what-have-you.

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash and dry the chicken well (be sure to pull the neck and giblets out first if it has them). Place the chicken in a roasting pan or large cast iron skillet and rub it all over with the oil. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Roast until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Check the chicken every 20 minutes or so to make sure it’s not browning too fast. If it is, you can lay a piece of foil over the breast to prevent it from drying out. When the chicken is fully cooked and golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it rest.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it up into pieces and shred the meat. I like to take off the legs and wings first, then carve the meat off the breasts—then I go back in and pull off as much remaining meat as I can from the carcass. At this point I divvy up the chicken into small portions, put it in baggies, and freeze it so I have multiple pizza topping options on hand all the time. I figure about ½ cup of shredded chicken per pizza. (Be sure to save the bones and any juice that’s gathered on your carving board to make a stock or something equally delicious.)

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