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A Whole Roast Chicken Worth Making, Even for One

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Since living alone, I kind of stopped eating chicken. Not because I don't like it, but because I like to buy my chickens whole and yet a whole chicken for one has felt impossible. Every time I've considered it, I'd think "I'll be stuck eating the thing for how many meals?"

Photo by Kristy Mucci

When you're cooking for two, a whole chicken is perfect: You get a few days out of it, make a stock for later, and it's this lovely little routine. A routine I feel like my single appetite can't keep up with.

And I can't be the only one. But so far, I have enough to worry about in my post-marriage experience without letting dinner—and especially anxiety about poultry—get to me. Which is why I've mostly been avoiding it.

Then I came across Renee Erickson's Roasted Chicken with Fried Capers and Preserved Lemon. I love her cookbook, and flip through it often, and I got kind of hung up on this recipe. I'm a sucker for preserved lemons and was eager to break my poultry restriction.

So I invited a few friends over and made a whole chicken. It was so good that there was nothing left of it, and I craved it for weeks after.

How to Roast the Perfect Chicken
How to Roast the Perfect Chicken

I like this recipe for so many reasons: One being that it makes my house smell like brown butter, and the effect that has on my mood is some kind of magic I can't fully understand. Plus, since I'm getting myself back into the kitchen, I want to feel like I'm really doing things in there. It's easy to throw a bird in the oven and let time and heat do their thing, but this recipe calls for a little more work: You get to fry capers, you get to brown butter, and you get to baby the bird by basting it several times.

The first time I made this, I added cauliflower to the pan—cauliflower cooked in brown butter and chicken fat until it's so tender it's practically mush is another kind of magic I'd like to experience more often. The whole thing made me feel pretty blissful (and now I know a big part of this was having company), and I wanted to repeat the meal as soon as I could—I thought I could handle a whole chicken on my own. The second time, I loved it just as much, but now I had leftovers. And a lot of them.

How to Roast a Chicken Without a Recipe
How to Roast a Chicken Without a Recipe

It took me five days to get through the whole bird, and each meal was a step down from the last. I wasn't going to waste this chicken, but at one point, I felt like I was being held hostage by this thing. I actually canceled plans with friends: "I can't go out for dinner tonight, I have this chicken I need to get through." Every lonely leftover meal rubbed my singleness in my face and made me swear off attempting a whole bird again. It's unfortunate, because a roasted chicken is so comforting.

Back when I was confident in the kitchen, I'm sure I could have come up with several solutions for this problem. Instead, I'm still avoiding chicken altogether.

If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them, because I really don't want to keep missing out.

Renee Erickson's Roast Chicken with Brown Butter and Lemons

Renee Erickson's Roast Chicken with Brown Butter and Lemons

Kristy Mucci Kristy Mucci
Serves 4
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 (4-pound) chicken, back removed, halves dried 1 hour in the refrigerator, and brined if desired
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy gray salt
  • 1/2 cup capers (salt-packed preferred), rinsed well
  • 1 preserved lemon peel, Julienned
  • 1 splash Finishing oil, for drizzling
Go to Recipe

How can one person tackle a whole chicken? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: Weeknight Cooking, Make Ahead, Meal Plan, Long Reads