Little Feat, Dixie Chicken
When I was growing up, Sunday dinner meant a 1:00, after-church, elbows-off-the-table, no-TV, meal of roast beef, roast pork, or roast chicken, with an occasional ham. Now before you wax all nostalgic, may I add that all roasted options were predictably dry and over-cooked. Muth accepted her role as food provider—dinner only, please—but didn’t seem to embrace it. Somehow, eating (and cooking) didn’t have the cachet then as it does today. There were no Kalamata olives, fresh mushrooms, artisan home-made pizza, avocado toast, coffee beans, Greek yogurt, Yukon gold potatoes, Trader Joe’s focaccia, or, for that matter, expectations of steppy, delectable “gourmet” meals.
Anyways, I assumed that a large glass of water was a mandatory accompaniment to any roast chicken until the 1980s when Judy Rogers became famous for her version at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Thomas Keller and Jacques Pépin weren’t far behind to jump on the restaurant-version roast chicken bandwagon and food critics are now quick to say that the quality of a world-class restaurant’s roast chicken is the acid test.
Since 2009, Costco has provided home cooks with a readily available, inexpensive—still $4.99!—solution for that I-just-spent-$200.00-at Costco-and-don’t-have-anything-for-dinner dilemma. Now there are those out there who do not enjoy the taste of a Costco, Safeway, or Whole Foods rotisserie chicken (the Sweetie among them) and who can spot the culprit whether hidden under a sea of gravy, tucked inside an enchilada, or nestled in the leaves of a faux Caesar salad but there are occasions when a home cook has to seize that rotisserie chicken by the wings and serve it anyway—every day can’t be a banquet.
I meant to buy a rotisserie chicken on our trip to Costco last week, but when faced with the ordeal of walking all the way to the back of the store, fending off the snack-seekers along the way, I thought, “I’ll just buy a raw one when we stop at Trader Joes.” Now here comes the sticker-shock aspect of my story: $14.69 cents for an raw, organic, (Who cares if it’s organic? At my age, it may as well be a caged chicken that gets me.) 3 1/2 pound bird. I had the sniffles (an inadequate word for my misery), so chicken noodle soup sounded like bliss.
I recently forked over the price of a New York Times Cooking subscription and have come to trust their recipes, so it was my first stop. The ease and simplicity of this recipe made it a sure choice. I’ve made that roast chicken three times since and may never go back to the Costco alternative. There is a turkey version, so that will be on the table, so to speak, for the next turkey holiday. After the bird rests for a half an hour, I save a breast for dinner, strip the bird, make a strong stock out of the bones, and have at least four dinners. Even at $14.69 a bird, that pencils out to be a bargain.
So without further ado, here is Mark Bittman’s recipe for roast chicken, thanks to New York Times Cooking.
Mark Bittman’s roast chicken
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put a cast-iron skillet on a low rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Rub the chicken all over with the oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the bird is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees—30-35 minutes.
Tip the pan to let the juices flow from the chicken’s cavity into the pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Carve and serve.