While the idea of a cooking a bird normally conjures up visions of stuffed Thanksgiving turkeys, I’ve found roasting a whole chicken to be one of the simplest, most economical, and most delicious ways to make a meal in your own kitchen. Not only does it feed a crowd big or small (or in my case, lay a great foundation for weekly meal prep for one person), but it allows you to capitalize on the whole animal in a nose-to-nail kind of manner. Think: a juicy chicken leg with roasted veggies for dinner, shredded chicken breast over your salad for lunch, some flavorful dark meat in your favorite cozy soup, and a hearty bone broth made from the carcass and bones.
Executing on the whole bird is daunting for home cooks, to be sure, but with the help of a handy meat thermometer (I got mine on Amazon here) it is quite literally foolproof. The silver lining is that you can also use this preparation to get rid of all of the odds and ends in your fridge – have some extra carrots and an onion? Throw them at the bottom of the pan, chopped up. One rogue lemon? Halve it and stuff it right inside the bird. Herbs to spare? A big bunch of thyme works wonders with chicken. I’ve broken down three of my favorite roast chicken recipes that are in my evergreen rotation, but also know that when in doubt, slathering your bird with ghee, salt, and pepper works wonders in and of itself.
The recipe that I cut my roast chicken teeth on, this Barefoot Contessa version is as clear-cut and classic as it gets. I normally roast a 2-pound chicken, and check the temperature starting at 50 minutes with the smaller bird. The recipe calls for carrots, put as assortment of root veggies – think parsnips and turnips, too – works wonders here.
Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto will go down in history as one of my favorite NYC restaurants, and their roast chicken with salsa verde was the item that one could not, by any means, miss. The accompanying salsa verde is juicy, bright, and aromatic, and just so happens to be just as good the next day mixed into soft scrambled eggs, drizzled on top of avocado, or as a dip fro crudites.
After watching Samin Nosrat’s documentary Salt Fat Acid heat, I immediately came home and made her roast chicken recipe. The simplicity is stunning – there are three ingredients total, including the chicken. The miracle worker here is the buttermilk, whose lactic acid breaks down the bird and tenderizes it to a degree I had never experienced before. Plus, it creates the deepest, darkest color on the bird that is gorgeous to serve whole at a dinner party.