A good friend told me once that she didn't know how to roast a chicken, and it just about broke my heart. With its crisp skin and juicy meat, roast chicken is perhaps the most delicious, warming, perfect meal I know. It's also about the easiest meal to prepare, and affordable: an $8 or $9 free-range, organic chicken should feed a family of four, with leftovers for making chicken soup the next night. As my grandmother would say, "what's not to love?"
- 3-lb. organically raised, free-range chicken
- 1/2 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 lbs. of potatoes, such as fingerlings or Yukon gold
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Chop potatoes into small cubes. Scatter evenly on the bottom of a roasting pan.
3. Remove giblets packet, if there is one, from the cavity of the chicken, and discard, unless using for another recipe. Rinse the chicken inside and out. (Julia Child used hot water, and so do I.) Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Place the chicken in the pan, on top of the potatoes. You can use kitchen string to tie the bird into a neat package, but lazy or rushed cooks can skip this step. (Theoretically, binding the bird causes it to roast more evenly, but I have found that it isn't necessary.) Place the onion and the garlic clove inside the cavity. Squeeze the lemon inside, and place the half-lemon inside as well.
Sprinkle the paprika, salt and pepper liberally across the skin, and rub in a bit.
5. Place in the hot oven. Roast for about 1 hour. Make a salad while the bird roasts.
6. When you think the chicken is done, wiggle a drumstick; if the joint feels loose, the chicken may be done. If it feels like the joint is still intact, it's not quite ready. Another way to tell is to slice through the skin. If the juices run clear, the chicken is ready. The final way to tell is to take the chicken out of the oven, and slice deeply into the meat between the drumstick and the breast. That's the last place to cook, so if it's done there, the whole thing should be done.
7. Let the chicken sit for 5 to 10 minutes to let the juices settle. The easiest way to carve a chicken is by holding the end of a drumstick and probing into the joint with a knife. Eventually, you will be able to guess with excellent accuracy. Cut off the drumsticks and the wings. Slice the breast into thin slivers. Place on a serving tray with the potatoes. Serve with a salad.
Scroll down for salad dressing tips and to learn what to do with the leftover chicken. (Hint: It comes in liquid form and is renowned for healing colds and flu.)