In this wonderful season of cozy blankets, daylight saving, and blazing fireplaces, cooks like you and I are called upon to create foods to match. In my opinion, nothing says “fall” quite like a simple, hearty roast chicken. This dish takes a little time (about 20 minutes to prep and 90 to cook), but it’s designed to be simple, comforting and delicious. Though it includes both chicken and vegetables, it’s technically a one-pot meal, as most of the mixing is even done in the roasting pan itself. It’s one of my wife’s favorite meals, and if you try it out, it might just be one of yours as well.
Before we get into it, allow me to share a few tips about this dish:
- As with most things that you throw in the oven, chicken (especially the breast meat) has a tendency to dry out. The key to a moist roast chicken is to stuff the bird as completely full as possible, so that no air pockets are left in the cavity that can heat up and cook the meat from the inside.
- Everything in this dish – chicken and veggies alike – cooks at the same time. Placing the chicken atop the vegetable mixture allows the flavorful juices to flow from the chicken into the veggies, creating a rich and flavorful side that won’t dry out as it cooks.
- Roast chicken is one of those classically comforting, and surprisingly easy, dishes that will impress the hell out of whomever you serve it for, and that – quite frankly – you really should know how to make. It could come in handy. You never know.
- A good-sized roasting pan or crock-pot (like a Le Creuset, not a slow-cooker) will go a long way to making this dish easier to make. You want to be able to spread out the veggies and still have plenty of room for the bird. You could even use one of those aluminum baking pans!
- 1 whole chicken – giblets and pin feathers removed, patted dry
- 1 lemon – quartered
- 1 apple – quartered
- 1 head of garlic – cloves roughly crushed and peeled
- 1 package (about 20 sprigs) fresh thyme – divided
- 4 whole sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 large fennel bulb – stems removed, bulb quartered
- 3-4 large carrots – peeled and cut in to 1-2 inch lengths
- 5 medium-sized golden potatoes or 12-15 fingerling potatoes – washed and quartered
- 1 yellow onion – rough chopped
- A bottle of EVOO (don’t worry, we won’t use all of it)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup of butter – melted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare the ingredients as listed above.
Place the potatoes, the carrots, the onion, the fennel, two of the sprigs of rosemary, and 1/4 of the sprigs of thyme in a large roasting pan. Dress the vegetables with a healthy drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons or so) and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and toss it all together until it’s well-combined.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lemon and apple quarters, the crushed garlic, and the remaining thyme and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss it all together. Stuff this mixture – in it’s entirety – into the chicken, making sure that the garlic and herbs are well-distributed throughout. It’s intended to be a lot of stuffing material, so you may need to hold the bird-flaps (ewww) closed with cooking twine or toothpicks.
Liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken on all sides (this can be easier to do before stuffing it).
Place the stuffed chicken atop the vegetable mixture, and place the whole roasting pan in the oven.
After an initial 20-30 minutes of cooking, remove the pan from the oven and baste the chicken with the melted butter.
Place the pan back in the oven, and continue to cook for another hour, for a total cooking time of 80-90 minutes, or until the juices run clear, or a meat thermometer registers that it’s done cooking.
Remove the chicken to a cutting board, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving slices of the succulent meat aside generous portions of the savory veggies.