The other day when I went to pick Emmett up from school one of his teachers asked me if we were remodeling our kitchen. I must have looked confused because she said “Emmett keeps telling me that you are building a new kitchen.” Of course he meant a TOY kitchen, the one that my parents bought his sister for her birthday. I had been assembling it over the course of a couple of evenings this week. She laughed when I told her what he was talking about and said that he was very, very excited about it.
For awhile I was not quite on board with a toy kitchen. I wondered why the kids couldn’t just cook in the real kitchen, with me. But as they grow older and I see how much they enjoy pretend play, I realize that they can have fun doing both. And honestly, sometimes they don’t have the patience to enjoy doing all of the real kitchen tasks, including waiting 20 minutes for something to come out of the oven or stopping every time something is too hot or sharp for little hands to be trusted. Sometimes they would rather just pretend. Having a toy kitchen, as it turns out, is great for getting them more involved in the real kitchen. They can help me with a discrete job like kneading dough or mixing or stirring something and then pretend to do all of the other steps in their own kitchen.
So what are we “pretending” to cook today? Roast chicken, because I think that everyone should have a go-to roast chicken recipe. It’s so easy and relatively inexpensive to do. Plus, everyone seems to like a good roast chicken. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I actually made this two days in a row because we couldn’t get enough.
My cooking method is based on the America’s Test Kitchen technique which I have summarized below.
Perfect Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken about 3-3.5 lbs
1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
zest of one lemon, plus the lemon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
cinnamon, just a small pinch
½ teaspoon powdered garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil*
*I use vegetable oil over butter or olive oil because it has a higher smoke point. I'm not sure that it makes a difference, but I'm cooking the bird at a high temperature and don’t want to set off the smoke alarm.
Arrange your oven racks so that you can put the chicken roughly in the middle of the oven. Place a large cast iron pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.
Combine the herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper, spices and oil and rub all over the chicken both on top and under the skin. Cut lemon in half and place in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. I don’t even worry about the wings.
Once the oven has come to temperature, take out your cast iron pan (carefully, it’s hot) and place your chicken in the center.
Put the pan back in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, turn the oven off. That’s right. O-F-F.
Leave your chicken in for another 25-30 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160F and the juices run clear.
Sometimes I make a simple pan sauce on the stove with the brown bits left in the skillet. I just add a little water or chicken broth to the pan, turn up the heat, scrape up the brown bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan, season it and well, sauce.
The last time I made this, I made some mushroom risotto to go with it and found that if I start cooking the risotto around the time I turn the oven off, everything is done at the same time. So, the chicken takes approximately 1 hour: I used the first 30 minutes to prep the ingredients for the risotto, make a salad and clean up; and the second 30 to cook the risotto. Voila, semi-fancy Sunday dinner in an hour. I would totally make it for company.
After we picked all the meat from the bird, I put everything that was left in my slow cooker with some water and roughly chopped vegetables for about 12 hours to make stock. I used that to make chicken soup that I blended into a puree for Eve. Nothing went to waste and she loved it!