Weeknight Cooking

The Best Roast Chicken with Herb and Garlic Pan Sauce

October  3, 2013

Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: The best roast chicken with pan sauce.

Cooking for Clara from Food52

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I may have mentioned once or twice that my daughter likes chicken. Okay, it goes beyond like -- it's more of a deep-seated obsession. (She asks for it at pretty much every meal.) Clara particularly enjoys eating it off the bone, cave-baby style. It's become quite the challenge to see how many different ways I can prepare chicken, but once a week I roast a bird for the whole family -- we get several meals out of it, and because we're devoted parents, we let Clara have both drumsticks.

Sometimes it feels like there are as many roast chicken recipes out there as there are snowflakes; and no matter how great your favorite is, it's nice to switch it up every now and then. I tend to fiercely embrace a particular technique, then get bored after about six months and move onto the next. It's a little like serial dating.

More: Barbara Kafka's Genius Roast Chicken

Clara with Chicken from Food52

Thanks to Kim Foster's side-splittingly funny new book, Sharp Knives, Boiling Oil: My Year of Dangerous Cooking with Four-Year-Olds, I've discovered a method that just may convince me to settle down. Aside from the technique itself, which is simple and great, I love Kim's intro to the recipe: she describes her family's weekly roast chicken ritual, which involves hacking up the cooked bird and serving it "in brutally unkempt bites and chunks on a big board," then encouraging everyone use their fingers to dredge the chicken chunks in a delicious pan sauce before devouring them. In her words, "it's a joyful, crispy, hot mess."

"I want a family chicken ritual like that!" I thought when I read it.

Chicken from Food52

Kim's roasting technique is inspired by Thomas Keller's roast chicken (blistering heat, lots of olive oil and salt, and that's pretty much it) and yields an incredibly juicy, tender bird with impossibly crisp skin. But her garlic and herb pan sauce is what really makes this recipe for me. Even if you're convinced your way of making roast chicken is the only way, I strongly urge you to try Kim's. You won't regret it.

Roast Chicken from Food52

The Best Roast Chicken with Garlic and Herb Pan Sauce

Adapted from Sharp Knives, Boiling Oil by Kim Foster

Serves 4

One 3 to 4 pound chicken, preferably organic or free-range, brought to room temperature
Kosher salt (and pepper if you'd like)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large sprigs thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup white wine

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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  • Heather
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  • Pegeen
I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


Heather December 7, 2013
This looks so yummy. I am going to try this today. I don't cook whole chickens very often or any big chunks of meat (I overcooked a roast the other day). Hopefully I can do this right. I taught myself to cook while I was a vegetarian in college, so I'm still learning how to cook the meats. I have a really hard time getting my two-old son to eat meat. Maybe it I had him a leg bone, he'll like it :)
Buffy F. October 7, 2013
I love the idea of the pan sauce! This is very similar to a Keller-inspired technique that I use for roast chicken, only I don't add any oil. I find that if the skin is bone-dry, it crisps beautifully. Also- the high heat and minimum necessary cooking time is essential. It's hard to believe that chicken can be SO good, with so few ingredients and so little effort!
Devon P. October 6, 2013
thanks so much! and please keep posting these fantastic recipes - they are a hit with our family as well!
Devon P. October 6, 2013
ok, this chicken was terrrific... clara's dress is absolutely adorable too. can you let us know where you found it? thanks!!!
Author Comment
Merrill S. October 6, 2013
So glad you liked it. And that shirt/dress is one of my favorites -- it's from the GAP!
Tokyo Y. October 4, 2013
I had to laugh at your chicken loving daughter. My daughter was also one. She is now 14, but until she was about 7 - every protein, be it fish, beef, pork or chicken - was chicken. When we had steak for dinner - she would ask for "More chicken, please."
Tokyo Y. October 4, 2013
p.s. She still gets the drumsticks!
Author Comment
Merrill S. October 6, 2013
So cute!
Pegeen October 3, 2013
You have to love Clara's big grin and masterful grip on that chicken leg! Another sauce option for fall is this cider & sage gravy, http://food52.com/recipes/7463-cider-sage-gravy. Other herbs like thyme or rosemary could be substituted, or use a combination.
creamtea October 3, 2013
"Cave-baby style". <3
laurenlocally October 3, 2013
Cave-baby style had me rolling too, Merrill!