Recipes That Get Us Through the Week: Cast-Iron Roast Chicken
We roast a lot of chickens over here at Casa Shannon. Partially because the kids all eat it. Partially because Christy primarily eats chicken and fish. And partially because, years ago, I made it a personal mission of mine to roast the perfect chicken. I have been through so many different recipes, I joked that the title of this post should be "20 Ways to Roast a Chicken." Instead, I'll save you from 19 of the recipes and post a recent go-to that is quick enough to get a roast chicken on the table for weeknight dinner.
It's a simple recipe--just salt, pepper, and olive oil--but there are a few shortcuts that help cut the cooking time down, like cooking the chicken in preheated cast iron skillet. I have an old 8-inch cast iron skillet passed down from my grandma or great grandma, and right now there's just enough room for the six of us, but once the kids get older I will probably have to upgrade to a 12-inch skillet. This recipe also has less than 10 minutes of hands-on time, which gives you plenty of time to do something else while the chicken cooks.
Weeknight Roast Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Garlic
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes.
- 1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds
- A few tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 - 2 pounds of mixed new potatoes or fingerling potatoes
- 6 - 10 (or more!) whole unpeeled garlic cloves
- Optional: mixed fresh herbs (I like parsley or rosemary)
Preheat the oven to 450° fahrenheit. Place cast iron skillet in the oven to heat up. I also like to take the chicken out of the refrigerator to let it warm up.
Meanwhile, remove giblets from the chicken and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and place on a plate. Coat the chicken with one tablespoon of olive oil (you don't need much--a little goes a long way), and season thoroughly inside and out with salt and pepper (I like to grind a bunch of pepper into a ramekin and then add approximately 1 tsp of salt per pound of chicken, so that I can season easily and not worry about spreading raw chicken on everything).
Now, here are the tips that cut down on cooking time:
- Don't stuff the chicken -- stuffing the chicken slows down cooking time (and honestly doesn't add that much flavor in my opinion).
- Use a few toothpicks to close the skin around the cavity -- this lets the inside of the chicken steam and helps ensure a really juicy chicken.
- Don't truss the chicken -- I generally just tuck the wings and let the legs remain loose. (note: in the pictures, I used a toothpick to hold the legs together. Usually, the toothpick pops open halfway through cooking but it didn't this time, so I had to cut the skin near the thighs and put the chicken back in the oven for a few minutes--I should have listened to my own advice)
When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully remove the skillet from the oven, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom, and place the chicken on its back in the center of the pan. Return the chicken to the oven and let cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, while chicken cooks, wash and dry the potatoes. Depending on their size, either halve or quarter the new potatoes (I would leave the fingerling potatoes whole, or maybe just halve the largest). Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, whole garlic cloves, and herbs (I use about 1/4 cup chopped parsley or 2-3 tablespoons rosemary).
After the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes, remove the skillet from the oven and carefully add the potatoes around the chicken. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the meat reaches 165 degrees. Because the chicken is untrussed, you can also gently cut into the skin between the thigh and body to check the hip joint for doneness. If the chicken is cooking slowly, I will cut the skin and spread open the joints on both thighs so that it is more exposed to heat.
Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before carving. Remove the potatoes from pan and keep warm. To carve, remove the whole legs first, and then separate the legs from the thighs. Then remove the wings, discarding the tips and separating flats and drumettes (our kids love "chicken on the bone" and love the wings, so these pieces are perfect for them). Finally, to remove the breasts, use a sharp knife to split down the middle. When you reach bone, shift your knife outward while trying to skim as close to the bone as possible and keep cutting downward--in this way, the breast comes off in one boneless piece and is easy to serve. Repeat for the other breast. For those in the know, don't forget the "oysters" on the back--easily the most flavorful part of the chicken (I usually eat these while carving, so they never even make it on the platter).
We usually serve this with a simple salad (mixed greens and a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and 1-2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard). For the kids, we will slice up some fresh veggies (bell peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas). You can make a great pan sauce for the chicken as well by deglazing the pan with some white wine, adding 1/2 cup chicken broth, and cooking the sauce down until it thickens a bit.
Don't forget to save the wishbone, either.
P.S. Check out our tips on how to (still) be a foodie with four kids.