Cast Iron

The Best Roast Chicken with Garlic and Herb Pan Sauce

October  2, 2013
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

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.

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.

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. —Merrill Stubbs

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 3 to 4 pound chicken, preferably organic or free-range, brought to room temperature
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt (and pepper if you'd like)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup white wine
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 480° F. Pat the chicken dry inside and out (if you want an extra crispy skin, leave the raw chicken in the fridge uncovered overnight after you've patted it dry and then bring it to room temperature).
  2. Put the chicken on a board or a large platter and generously season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper if you're using it. Drizzle a little olive oil in the cavity as well.
  3. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the chicken, and rub it all over so that it's evenly coated. Salt the chicken well all over, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  4. Transfer the chicken to an enameled cast iron pan or a heavy roasting pan just big enough to hold it and put it in the oven. Don't open the door for at least 45 minutes, when you can start to test it for doneness. (The chicken is cooked when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a sharp knife, and the juices run clear.) Let the chicken rest on a carving board while you make the pan sauce.
  5. To make the sauce, put the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the drippings in the pan, and once it melts add the thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute.
  6. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon, stirring them into the sauce. Let the wine cook down for one to two minutes.
  7. Add a cup of boiling water, stir well, and let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary (if you've salted your chicken enough, this probably won't be necessary).
  8. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the warm pan sauce in a bowl nearby for dipping.

See Reviews

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yayita
    Yayita
  • Katie Stephenson
    Katie Stephenson
  • crystelle
    crystelle
  • AdventureGirl
    AdventureGirl
  • Carol Berger
    Carol Berger
Review
I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.