This chicken is a one-skillet ode to spring, using some of my favorite first-to-appear ingredients. It starts with a honeyed rhubarb butter, which is generously slathered over and under the skin.
Rhubarb holds a special place in my heart—it was the first ingredient to change my mind. Growing up, I was a picky eater, driven entirely by my perception of the food in question. I hated fresh tomatoes with a fiery passion because my brother told me they were fruit (and that just didn’t seem right with spaghetti). And it was rhubarb’s resemblance to celery that turned me off initially, even though I heard my parents and grandma rave about it each year.
Kansas can have especially blustery, bleak winters, and everyone in my family, from kids to octogenarians, celebrated the arrival of spring with a particular gusto. The first appearance of rhubarb was more than the annual return of a seasonal ingredient—it was a sign of wonderful things to come. It only took until I was nine or ten years old for even the pickiest part of my brain to give in. I couldn’t ignore how everyone gushed over rhubarb. and I eventually yielded to its glories as a pretty-in-pink pie filling at my grandma’s house, as a sour sauce ladled over ice cream at home with my parents.
Now, I eagerly await rhubarb each spring—and work it into as many recipes as possible. Both sweet and savory: It’s more versatile than some folks give it credit for. In this recipe, it takes on the role of lemon, adding a tartness and freshness to roast chicken. I place it on a bed of tiny potatoes, which are eventually joined by bright green peas.
Besides its singular taste, rhubarb opened the door for me to accept other ingredients I once thought I could never love (now I can eat a summer tomato out of hand like an apple). Eagerly cooking with rhubarb each year is a way for me to carry the tradition I was taught: to pay tribute to the arrival of spring—because even a single stalk is a delicious sign of all the glorious things to come. —Erin McDowell
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
- Serves 4
(3 ½–pound) chicken
(3 ounces) chopped rhubarb (about 1 large stalk)
hot honey (regular honey works, too—add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, if desired)
unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/2 pounds
Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups
green peas (ideally fresh peas, thawed if frozen, drained if canned)
- Unwrap the chicken and pat it dry all over. Fold the chicken wings back and tie the legs to prepare it for roasting.
- In a small pot, combine the rhubarb and honey. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb breaks down entirely—you should be able to mash the mixture relatively smooth with your stirring utensil.
- Transfer to a medium bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Add the butter to the warm (but not hot!) rhubarb mixture, and mix to combine.
- Place the potatoes in a single layer in the base of a 9-inch cast iron skillet (a larger size works, too, but don’t go any smaller). Spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of the rhubarb butter on top of the potatoes. (At this point, you can stick the rest of the rhubarb butter in the fridge to reach a more spreadable consistency.) Transfer the skillet to the oven and heat to 375°F. Leave there for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the butter has fully melted.
- While the potatoes are in the oven, season the chicken with salt and pepper, generously slather with the remaining rhubarb butter, applying it both under and on top of the skin, and finish with paprika and cayenne.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and toss until all of them are coated with butter. Season with salt and pepper, and spread into an even layer. Add the seasoned, buttered chicken on top of the potatoes and transfer the skillet back to the oven. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. Baste the chicken as it roasts (every 15 to 20 minutes or so). After it’s been in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, raise the oven temperature to 425°F, baste the chicken, and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F and the juices run clear (this will take about 15 minutes).
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the skillet and place on a cutting board. Cover it with foil and let rest.
- Return the skillet with the potatoes to the oven for 10 minutes, then stir in the peas and roast for 5 minutes more.
- Carve the chicken and serve alongside a spoonful of potatoes and peas.