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The Always-Juicy Chicken Recipe to Keep in Your Back Pocket

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We're always on the hunt for back-pocket holiday hosting tips to make this time of year more about celebrating and less about stressing. We've partnered with If You Care to bring you recipes and techniques so that you're halfway to dinner—even if guests are on their way.

During the holiday season, everything takes on a more festive air—including weeknight cooking. When I entertain, whether casually or a tad more formally, I’m always on the hunt for those rare dishes that 1. are sure to please a crowd, 2. aren’t going to add stress to my life, and 3. feel celebratory without requiring a huge amount of work. Chicken is a go-to for me in these cases, and I recently realized that a gem of a technique for roasted chicken was right at my fingertips: Kukla’s herbed chicken thighs in a paper bag.

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We've got a bag of tricks for the holidays, and it's made of parchment.
We've got a bag of tricks for the holidays, and it's made of parchment. Photo by Rocky Luten

Kukla’s recipe taught me the way to the most juicy, herbed chicken: marinating the chicken with lots and lots of herbs, then roasting it in a parchment bag so that the chicken steam-roasts its way to tenderness. Cooking in a parchment bag is similar to cooking en papillote with parchment or in a foil packet—but with no crimping or packet-assembly required. It’s a recipe loved by many Food52 community members, and for good reason: the chicken is virtually hands-off in preparation and among the most fragrant I’ve ever roasted (and I've roasted lots of chickens).

By tinkering with Kukla's ideas, this steam-roasting technique can easily be applied to a whole chicken, which is a nice way to go—guests can choose between white and dark meat. By letting the chicken first take a gentle-steam bath inside the parchment bag, and then cutting the bag to expose the chicken for the rest of its roast, you get the best of both worlds: tender chicken flavored through and through with fresh herbs (with no worry about burnt herbs!) and lightly browned skin. This technique won’t give you the deeply bronzed, crispy skin of many a roast chicken, but there’s not a simpler, more reliable route to a gorgeously juicy, fragrant bird.

Herb Roasted Chicken a la Kukla
Herb Roasted Chicken a la Kukla

It’s a great recipe to have in your holiday entertaining playbook. Since the chicken can be marinated up to a day in advance and then bagged and put in the oven whenever you’re ready, it’s a no-stress, low-prep entertaining situation, with minimal mess or clean-up. A parchment roasting bag from If You Care slips over a whole chicken, and it’s easy to fold and close. (A medium-sized bag is good for most chickens; if you're thinking about doing this with a larger bird, go for a larger bag.)

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Below I’ve included ideas for dinner party-worthy side dishes, organized in terms of what dishes can be roasted alongside the chicken, what can be made stovetop, and what can be done in advance—plus some options for leftovers, if you’re lucky enough to have any. All of these dishes pair well with this herbed chicken and are easy to pull off, which means that you can spend your time mingling with guests instead of tethered to the stove, basking in the pleasure of holiday entertaining.

Sides To Roast Alongside the Chicken

Any of these sides can roast alongside the chicken in a 400°F oven—just look at their baking times to know when to start them relative to the chicken.

Celery and Fennel Gratin

Celery and Fennel Gratin by inpatskitchen

Green Rice

Green Rice by Marian Bull

Sheet Pan Stuffing with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

Sheet Pan Stuffing with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta by Alexandra Stafford

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese by Genius Recipes

Sides To Make Stovetop

These sides can be made on the stovetop while the chicken is roasting, and they’ll hold well covered with foil.

"Pot-Stuck" Brussels Sprouts

"Pot-Stuck" Brussels Sprouts by Marian Bull

Butter-Braised Fingerlings

Butter-Braised Fingerlings by hardlikearmour

Michel Richard's Glazed and Glistening Haricots Verts
Michel Richard's Glazed and Glistening Haricots Verts
Mushrooms with Caramelized Shallots and Fresh Thyme

Mushrooms with Caramelized Shallots and Fresh Thyme by Josh Cohen

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Mash

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Mash by hardlikearmour

Sides To Assemble in Advance

These sides can be assembled fully in advance, no reheating required.

Northern Spy's Kale Salad

Northern Spy's Kale Salad by Genius Recipes

Toro Bravo's Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette

Toro Bravo's Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette by Genius Recipes

Alexandra Stafford's No-Knead Peasant Bread

Alexandra Stafford's No-Knead Peasant Bread by Genius Recipes

Vera Obias' Cheddar & Black Pepper Cornbread

Vera Obias' Cheddar & Black Pepper Cornbread by Genius Recipes

Putting Leftover Chicken to Good Use

If you have leftover chicken, lucky you! These recipes are great ways to repurpose the leftovers.

Chicken and Rice Salad with Poached Radishes and Nuoc Cham

Chicken and Rice Salad with Poached Radishes and Nuoc Cham by Ali Slagle

Warm Chicken Salad

Warm Chicken Salad by Merrill Stubbs

The Full Monty Salad (or Sandwich)

The Full Monty Salad (or Sandwich) by Jessica Koslow

Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup by Sarah | Wisconsin from Scratch

We're always on the hunt for back-pocket holiday hosting tips to make this time of year more about celebrating and less about stressing. We've partnered with If You Care to bring you recipes and techniques so that you're halfway to dinner—even if guests are on their way.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Holiday Entertaining, Tips & Techniques