Is a roast chicken the little black dress of recipes? Timeless, versatile, universally appealing, easily tailored to almost any occasion? Maybe some would argue the LBD is a dated concept, a relic of a different time, but roast chicken will never be out of style.
You can find countless methods for turning out the perfect roast chicken—many contradicting each other—and the only thing you should take away from all of this clamor is that technique matters. Technique is the recipe for roast chicken. Everything else is just a tweak that makes a recipe yours. Try a few out. It’s an important part of mastering this classic. I was lucky to land on my technique early: very high heat until it’s done. Since then, I’ve brined, air-chilled, dry-rubbed, lowered the temperature and increased the cooking time, but nothing beats the juicy meat and golden crispy skin of the simple high-heat method.
Maybe you’ve never tried to roast a chicken before and you want to snag that particular culinary trophy, or maybe you’ve got a method you’re as committed to as I am—either way, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. Apples, shallots, thyme, and radicchio roast alongside the chicken, bringing fall to your plate and turning the chicken into a one-pan meal. The shallots practically confit themselves in the chicken fat as they roast, so be sure to have a crusty baguette for soaking up the luscious pan juices. One last word: as delightful as these fall accompaniments are, they aren’t necessary. The roast chicken can stand alone, or with just about anything else you want to serve. A true essential.
4–6 lb. whole chicken
4 shallots, peeled and halved
3 Honeycrisp apples, cut into wedges
1 head of radicchio, cut into wedges
½ Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, plus 4–6 sprigs
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground pepper
1 Preheat oven to 500ºF.
2. Bring chicken to room temperature and pat very dry with paper towels. Rub all over with softened butter. Season the chicken (including the cavity) generously with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and thyme leaves.
3. Place chicken in a large cast-iron skillet or heavy roasting pan. Add sliced shallots around the chicken and drizzle them lightly with olive oil. Slide pan into oven.
4. Roast chicken about ten minutes per pound, or until the juices run clear. Halfway through roasting, remove pan from oven and add apple and radicchio wedges to the pan around the chicken. Stir to coat everything in the chicken fat. Add 4–5 thyme sprigs on top of the vegetables and return pan to oven.
5. When chicken is done, let it rest for 20–30 minutes until carving. Taste the radicchio and season with a bit of salt if necessary. Serve the carved chicken with the apples, vegetables, and a crusty baguette for dipping.
Photograph by Jivan Davé