roast chicken

The Last Roast Chicken Recipe

A few months ago, Melissa Clark asked if anyone really needed another roast chicken recipe? And then, she answered in the affirmative. After trying this technique - I'll suggest you may need no other the next time someone asks. This one, you need. I would be hard-pressed to think of a time I'd do a roast chicken differently. It's near to perfection and dead easy. Pretty quick. Nothing wrong with that combination! I call it a technique more than a recipe because that's what I take away. I've tried it three or four times since the article caught my eye back in May and not once have I made exactly as this recipe calls for, that is to say, not with ramps. What I have done, is to take this method and added my own Chinese Five Spice powder and other vegetables, but the technique and inspiration, I owe to Melissa.

The secret is a cast iron skillet and screaming hot oven. Starting with a really good quality bird doesn't hurt either.

5 spice splayed chicken

Look Ma! No Fat!*

Six Steps to Perfect Chicken (Seven including cocktails)

I start rice and rinse my veg before the chicken goes into the oven.

Step one: Rinse the best chicken you can afford (this one was on sale at Whole Foods, 4.5 lbs for something like $8. We had 4-5 servings and a good carcass for stock!) Pat it dry. Sprinkle with homemade or store-bought 5 spice powder. Place uncovered on a plate in the fridge overnight to dry the skin which makes it crispy. (This could be day two or done on the same day a few hours later. The idea is to give the chicken a good day in the fridge, even several hours. Try it, you'll thank me.)

Step two: Jack your (clean) oven up to 500 degrees, with your large cast iron skillet inside.

Step three: Splay thighs. Cut the skin that connects the leg to the bird, and spread those legs! Pop the hip joints out so the thighs will lie flat on the skillet. Pop a lemon half or two into the cavity, if you remember.

Step five: When oven has pre-heated, carefully slide the rack out with that screaming hot pan and place the chicken on the hot skillet, pressing the legs down. Then slide rack back into the hot oven.

Step six: Have a drink while you try to remember the last time - cough, cough - you cleaned the oven. Remove (or slide rack out) the chicken after 20 minutes, nestle some greens and some garlic smashed or sliced, between the hot, hot pan and the gorgeous chicken. Return to oven.

Step seven: Ten minutes later, remove pan from oven. Careful it's very hot. I leave oven mitts near the pan to remind myself. Sometimes it even works.

Let the chicken rest, while you pour wine or iced tea, plate the rice.

EAT. You will marvel at the crispy, browned skin. You'll cry out in joy over the moist breast and perfect thighs. You'll nibble the greens and garlic with rice realizing the only adornment needed is only the juices spooned from the pan. You'll feel virtuous that you used no fat at all and dirtied no other pots.

Praising yourself for the lack of fat used in the one-pan meal, you'll sit back and tell yourself that maybe tomorrow, cough, you'll finally clean the oven. Maybe.



1) To make any roast chicken, this technique or another, I highly recommend you rinse an organic, air-chilled chicken off then pat it dry. Set it uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin. This makes for a nice crisp skin. Even a good three hours helps.

2) If roasting whole, I like a V-rack (see Fennel Pollen roast chicken), which suspends the bird and also holds it together a bit, as if it were semi-trussed. But this new cast-iron technique, this is a keeper. I may never use my V-rack again (it's okay, inverted in my cabinet, it makes a very nice lid organizer.)

3) My Five spice powder has evolved to include coriander seed. So technically, this makes it Six spice powder. Start with the five and see what you think. I think a Garam Masala would be great, too. Or an Herbes de Provence.

4) Greens I've used successfully in this recipe include: Shanghai broccoli (rinse, halve) and Mushrooms; Dandelion greens and slices of garlic; Chard and garlic.

5) I don't think the whole chicken of this size took even 40 minutes beginning to end. I have a convection oven and that reduces the cooking time some. I use tongs about 20-30 minutes in to jiggle the leg, sometimes hit the breast with a thermometer. You will know your oven best or get to know it. My feeling is that you can always put the chicken back in if it's undercooked, but most people are used to overcooked, dried out chicken. This technique cooks the bird quickly in high heat, somehow retaining the moisture in the bird.

*Technically this is not a fat-free meal, just no added fat. But this can be our secret. I don't even put any fat on the bird. No butter, no oil, none in the pan. And the veg are cooked in the fat/juices from the chicken. That is it. Tasty, tasty.



Top 5 Ways to Enjoy Winter Citrus (plus a couple dead-easy recipes)

Every once in a while we have to shake things up. We all get stuck in ruts, falling back on the familiar recipes, the easy ones we don't have to think about.

Right now, even in New England, we have citrus. You may even have a CSA that brings you citrus from the East coast. Or, if you're really lucky, you may have relatives that mail you boxes of citrus from their yard. You may simply pick up some gorgeous citrus in the grocery store. There's a reason we crave citrus in Winter. It's full of vitamins and tastes of the sun - what's not to love?

Here are my picks for some favorite ways to incorporate citrus, hopefully they'll give you some inspiration.

1. Roast a chicken with oranges and lemon and warm Indian spices.

The other night I wanted to roast a chicken. It's one of those meals that grounds me. After traveling to Mali, coming home with a bad cold, visits with out-of-town friends, my many meals out, I was desperate to get cooking again. My friend Virginia Willis calls chickens Gospel Birds (follow that link to find two other recipes including citrus) because they were a traditional Sunday after-church meal.

I had Indian spices on my mind, so here's what I did: Washed and patted dry a chicken we got on sale at Whole Foods. I mixed some homemade Punjabi Garam Masala and canola oil and rubbed that bird all over, let it sit a couple hours in the fridge. To make your own garam masala see Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries or simply buy his new spice blends, here.

When the oven was pre heating (to 375) I sliced orange and lemon wedges and about half a red onion and placed those in the cavity. Tied its legs and folded the wing tips under, then roasted for about half an hour in a small roasting pan with a little water in the bottom. After that first half hour or 40 minutes, I tossed lemon halves, orange wedges, ginger, garlic and a large carrot chopped up into the roasting pan. Once or twice I poured the accumulated juices into a bowl and basted the chicken with it.

While the chicken rested, I poured the pan juices into a grease separator, deglazed the pan with a little saké, added the juice and zest of half an orange went into a pan sauce, along with some citrus champagne vinegar, and the de-greased pan juices. No butter, no flour, just a slightly reduced citrusy pan sauce.

We had white rice (I was out of basmati~!) with aloo gobhi (another simple and satisfying Indian dish - potatoes, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, simmered in tomato and spices). The aloo gobhi came together while the chicken was roasting. Another meal, I made Kathy Gori's Spinach Pachadi, basmati rice and mulligatawny soup.

As our niece Ennyn says "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy."

2. Make a citrus aioli or mayonnaise.

A little Meyer Lemon is a wonderful thing in some mayo. Even if you're just using it for workaday sandwiches, the extra punch of lemon zest in the mayo is divine. Be sure to get organic lemons and oranges so the zest is free of chemicals. A microplane grater makes quick work of zesting.


3. Infuse some vodka.

We have a batch of vodka sitting with lovely strips of Citron. I should've shot some photos but totally forgot. Citron is wild. It looks like a gigantic lemon. I used my vegetable peeler to remove thin strips of zest without pith (the spongy bitter white portion of citrus). Then, I cut into the Citron to squeeze out about a Tablespoon of juice. Really, in that whole thing, that was all there was!


4. Enjoy some sustainable seafood.


  • Slice lemon or orange slices in some en papillote preparation.
  • Make a ceviche with scallops, squid, poblano, aji amarillo, kumquats and citrus.


Here's the ceviche completed:


Que RRRRico!


5. Lemon Ginger Quinoa.

I had one meal of some leftover Chinese food (dao miu - pea tendrils, and tofu). I just needed a little something but I was too hungry to wait for rice! Quinoa to the rescue. If you haven't tried quinoa yet, you really should. I am giving you one last chance with this easy recipe. It's DONE in less than half an hour!


Dead-easy Recipe: Lemon Ginger quinoa recipe



  1. Rinse white quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh sieve. The little berries (yes, they are fruits of the quinoa plant, not actually a grain) are coated with saponin which while it won't hurt you, tastes soapy. I'm convinced most folks who have had a bad quinoa experience have simply had quinoa that wasn't rinsed.
  2. Place quinoa and water in a small pot. Add a slice of fresh ginger root and a wedge of Meyer Lemon. I think orange would work just as well. Whatever your measure of quinoa is, simply add twice the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and pop a lid on it.
  3. Check in 20 minutes to see if water has absorbed. Stir a few times and your quinoa will be done when the little grains unfurl and the water is absorbed.
Enjoy. The advantage of quinoa in addition to its quick cooking time is that it is better for you nutritionally (calcium, protein, minerals) and adds protein to the plate. Zero fat, just good flavor.
Leftover quinoa can be added to or substituted for your morning oatmeal.

  • What are your favorite ways to eat or cook with citrus?
  • Drop a comment and win a package of Raghavan Iyer's Garam Masala. (Have a look at these gorgeous photos and lovely article on The Heavy Table blog.)
  • I'll use the random number generator to pick from our comments. Contest closes 5 PM Wednesday February 29th!