Chicken

One-Pot Roast Chicken a la Julia Child

March  2, 2018
3 Stars
Photo by Jenny Huang
Author Notes

In Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, there are recipes that stretch for pages and pages, calling upon the reader to perform such extraordinary ingredient ministrations that few would have the patience to see them through. Julia’s poetic and instructional prose can make one woozy with equal parts delight and dread when making something as simple as a roasted chicken.

One of my favorite recipes to read (but not follow to the word) is Casserole-Roasted Chicken (pages 249-251). It is indeed a wonderful recipe, but one that requires a bit of editing to make it something the majority of home cooks would dare to try. The technique is elementary, but the sheer length of the instructions would intimidate most readers. One of my greatest pleasures as a recipe writer is to distill a beautiful, unwieldy recipe down to size, uncovering its true essence so more cooks have access to it. Casserole-Roasted Chicken presents just the right amount of challenge.

“It is a lovely method, as the buttery, aromatic steam in the casserole gives the chicken great tenderness and flavor,” says Julia in her headnote. Say no more. The gist of the recipe couldn’t be simpler: In a heavy-duty Dutch oven, brown a whole chicken (salt and peppered), on all sides, in hot fat. Set the chicken aside, add more butter to the pot and toss in an herb and aromatic vegetables (tarragon, carrots, onions). Place the browned chicken, breast side up, on top of the vegetables, cover, and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 1 hour. While the chicken rests, you make a gravy to serve it with.

Since that recipe spans three pages, I went to work playing the vegetables so that “buttery, aromatic steam” not only made a tender chicken, but also a pile of butter-braised vegetables (not just aromatics) to serve it with, and a sauce that magically creates itself in the bottom of the pot. When it comes out of the oven, it is truly a meal in a pot (like a prehistoric Instapot). Julia suggests serving “broiled tomatoes along with it for color” (I love how she thinks!), but you can also choose colorful vegetables for eye appeal.

After the chicken is browned on all sides, I add a combination of three different hearty vegetables to the pot (a magic culinary number): butternut squash, fennel, red onion (color!), purple or fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsnips, golden beets (stay away from red). I also add an herb: tarragon is classic French, but thyme or rosemary are winners too. Lastly, before covering the pot and popping it in the oven, I pour over 1/4 cup of white wine. That gets the sauce going, mingling with the butter, chicken juices, and sweet starches that ooze from the vegetables, creating a luscious gravy the likes of which Julia Child would surely, wholeheartedly approve. —Jennifer Clair

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 3 1/2-pound chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and dried with paper towel
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds mixed vegetables (choose 3: fingerling or purple potatoes, parsnips, carrots, golden beets, butternut squash, fennel), cut in generous 3-inch pieces (so they don’t overcook)
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, peeled cut in 16 wedges through the root (so the wedges stay intact)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, or tarragon
  • 1/4 cup white wine
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a large Dutch oven with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken all over (not inside) with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on 3 sides (breasts and 2 leg/thigh sections) until browned all over, about 15 minutes total. Use tongs and a wooden spoon anchored in the cavity to turn it easily onto each side (you can prop it up against the side of the pot so it doesn’t tip over when you are browning the leg/thigh sections).
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot and transfer to large bowl. Turn off the heat under the pot and add the butter, swirling until it melts. Add the vegetables, onion wedges, and herbs. Toss, coating the vegetables with the butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper and toss again. Move the vegetables to the sides of the pot, making room for the chicken. Place the browned chicken on top, breast side up. Pour over 1/4 cup white wine, cover pot with the lid, and transfer the pot to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165° when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 hour.
  3. Carve the chicken in the pot or transfer to a cutting board to carve more elegantly. Serve with the braised vegetables and sauce on the side.

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    Jennifer Clair
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I am wild about food. And about my new cookbook -- Six Basic Cooking Techniques: Culinary Essentials for the Home Cook -- based on the most popular class at my cooking school in New York City. If you crave food knowledge, take a peek inside the book on the website above.

14 Reviews

El B. January 19, 2021
I've casserole roasted chickens more times that I can count. I do not believe you made this according to your recipe and generated that photo. There is no way a chicken roasted in a covered vessel will have that burnished, crispy skin.

Uncovering for the last 15 minutes will help. But that photo did not come from this recipe. Saying that it did doesn't make it so.
 
Michael G. May 20, 2020
Why should we stay away from red beets? (asking because I currently have red beets and not golden ones but want to make this recipe)
 
BicycleCurtis October 9, 2018
Regarding not getting browned, crispy skin when roasting a chicken using this method, try removing the pot’s lid for the last 10 minutes of roasting. Basting with some of the accumulated juices or melted butter can add some color as well.
 
BicycleCurtis October 9, 2018
Most whole chickens sold in super markets and grocery stores range in size between 3.5 to 6 pounds. When I roast a chicken, my wife and like leftovers for quesadillas, enchiladas or salads so I’ll go for a size around 5-ish pounds and then adjust cooking time accordingly. The key to insure doneness, check internal temperature as recommended in the recipe.
 
Jeanine G. September 7, 2018
I have never been able to find a 3 pound chicken in my local grocery store. Why do chef's keep making recipes for them?
 
Catherine J. February 22, 2019
You are absolutely right!
 
Susanna February 22, 2019
Look for, or ask for, a fryer instead of a roaster. They are usually beteeen 3 and 4 pounds.
 
hookmountaingrowers April 15, 2018
very nice moist chicken. No crispiness and unable to get that browned look despite searing the skin in the beginning but very happy with the ease and taste of the meal. Just could use more herbs.
 
Barbara G. March 4, 2018
Not seeing the onion wedges in the ingredients list. How many? What kind of onions?
 
Nikkitha B. March 4, 2018
Hi Barbara,

Sorry that got left out. It's 1 medium red or yellow onion, peeled cut in 16 wedges through the root (so the wedges stay intact).
 
Alexandra March 2, 2018
Not directed at you, Jennifer -- it's directed at Food52's food stylist.

I get food photography magic and all, but burnishing the chicken in a recipe where the chicken is steamed wipes out all suspension of disbelief. People are going to make this recipe and be very confused as to why their chicken comes out looking pallid with rubbery skin when the picture depicts it as deeply caramelized and crisp.

I've made the original recipe.
 
Peter V. March 3, 2018
How do you make the chicken have crisp skin?
 
Nikkitha B. March 4, 2018
Hi,

Thanks for your notes. We made the chicken exactly as was written in the recipe, which is a riff on the original Julia Child one. The chicken gets the color and crisp skin from being browned first, for 15 minutes, on all three sides (step 1). In this step, the chicken is not steamed, but browned. I hope that clears things up.
 
Author Comment
Jennifer C. March 5, 2018
Hello all! The chicken does indeed get a caramelized skin from the browning in Step 1, but it is "not crisp" since it then steams in an enclosed pot. The stylist definitely spent a good amount of time browning the breast and leg area (which you can do too), so it does end up with a wonderful burnished look if you spent the full 15 minutes prescribed for browning.