Holy heckamoly. This chicken, you guys. There is a reason it has nearly 1000 5-star reviews online. It’s pretty much the most perfect chicken ever, and it’s one of those amazing meals you can throw together in the morning, or the night before, then pop into the oven to make things easier at dinner time. (You can also use instant mashed potatoes to make it even easier– I’m not your boss.)
It’s also a showstopper– golden brown chicken, caramelized roasted veggies, and fragrant garlic mashed potatoes will have your family, friends, or cat saying “WOW” (or “ME-OW”). It’s also a great substitute for a turkey if you’re celebrating with a smaller Thanksgiving gathering. Instagram the shiznit out of this one, then dig in for a comforting and delicious feast, any night of the week.
Make sure you read through this one; if you’re making ALL the things, you’ll need to time yourself properly.
Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken
- 1 4-5lb chicken
- 4-5 carrots
- 2 bulbs fennel (or three if they’re small)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 lemon
- 1 head garlic
- 1/2 stick butter
- Kosher salt
Optional Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
- 5 potatoes
- 1 head garlic
- 1/2 C milk
- 1/2 stick butter
- 3 T butter
- 3 T flour
- 1 C broth (chicken or veggie)
- 1 C deglazed pan drippings
- a few branches of thyme
Preheat oven to 425F with your racks near the bottom of the oven.
Wash and chop your veggies roughly– carrots in about 1 1/2″ chunks, onion in 1/2″ slices then quarters, and fennel bulbs (just the white part, not the green fronds) in about 1″ wedges. Throw all the cuttings (the green parts of the fennel, the carrot tops, and the onion skins) into a ziplock bag for your freezer to make broth later, if you’re an overachiever.
Put the onion, then fennel, then carrots into a roasting pan and scatter the top with about 10 branches of your thyme.
Give the chicken a rough once-over– you want to make sure there aren’t any of the huge pinfeathers left. Take the giblets out of the middle (save them to make gravy OR feed the boneless parts to your cat). Rinse the chicken, pat it dry, and season the interior with kosher salt and pepper.
Cut your lemon and one bulb of garlic in half and stuff them and a handful of thyme into the chicken.
Truss your chicken (a complicated cat’s cradle move best suited for professionals) or do what I do– just tuck the wingtips under the chicken, poke holes in the skin by the cavity opening, and pop the drumsticks in to the holes on opposite sides. It works just as well and doesn’t require kitchen twine (which, full disclosure, I have never bought). Put the chicken on a rack over the veggies or just right on top.
At this point, you can cover the whole thing with foil and pop it in the fridge for later (in which case I hope you did not have the oven on this whole time), OR you can keep right on trucking.
When your oven is at 425F, melt the half stick of butter in the microwave (it only takes about 20 seconds). Drizzle just a teaspoon or so of olive oil on your veggies and season them with salt and pepper. Pop the chicken back on top and pour the butter over it (make sure you get all of the skin, this will help it get that gorgeous golden brown color). Season the chicken and put it all in the oven.
IF YOU’RE MAKING POTATOES: Start now. Skin your potatoes (I use Yukon golds) and chop them into thirds or quarters and drop them into a large pot, covered with water. Take the other bulb of garlic and give it a smack with the broad side of your knife to loosen the cloves, then put the cloves in with the potatoes. When your chicken has been in the oven about an hour, turn the burner to high for your potatoes, and down to medium-high when it starts boiling. They need to boil for 20-30 min or until you can smoosh a spatula through one. Once the potatoes are ready (probably around when your gravy is done), drain them, add the milk and the other half stick of butter, and moosh them (with a mixer, a potato masher, a pastry blender, whatever you’ve got handy).
Check the chicken after about 70 minutes, or when the potatoes start to boil. If it’s getting too brown, throw some foil over it. You can also pull it out, poke a knife into the meaty part between the thigh and leg, and if the juices run CLEAR (not pink or opaque), it is ready to come out. It should be close! When the chicken is done, pull it out, set it on your serving plate, and tent it with foil (loosely so the skin stays crispy). The chicken NEEDS to sit for 10-15 minutes so the juices absorb back into it. It is a sciency thing, just trust me. Remove the veggies to a serving plate and cover them, too.
**IF YOU’RE MAKING GRAVY: Look at you, you superstar! OK, now’s the time. Set the roasting pan with all the juices and brown bits to the side, DO NOT toss that stuff. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a pan, add the flour, and whisk it together. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE MADE A ROUX.
When it is incorporated, let it cook for a minute or two on LOW while you deglaze the roasting pan. This involves adding about a cup of water to the roasting pan (with the juices and bits left in it), setting it over a burner, and scraping all the brown bits up from the bottom. Once the pan is mostly clean, and the water is brown (with TASTE!), dump the hot liquid from the pan into your roux and whisk it all together. You may need to add about a cup of broth to the pan, depending on how thick it is.
If you’re the type to add wine to your gravy, DO NOT DO IT here. I know, this is crazy, I am recommending no wine??? But the lemon from the chicken makes this gravy slightly tart already; you don’t want to add more acid to it. Throw your thyme into the gravy and set the heat to low while you finish the potatoes (they should be done now).
Have someone else cut the chicken up while you pour yourself a glass of cold white wine.
ENJOY. YOUR. FABULOUS. DINNER!!!
I can’t say enough about how good your house is going to smell, or how delicious this combo of veggies is, or how much I love dunking a juicy piece of chicken with a bite of crispy skin into the tangy gravy and garlicky mashed potatoes for a PERFECT BITE. This is seriously one of my favorite dinners EVER. Make it for someone’s birthday, or a dinner party, or to make your Monday more bearable. It will Change. Your. Life. And the great thing about it is that every time you make it, it gets a little easier to do– pretty soon you’ll be making the whole thing on autopilot, like I do, and you can have it literally any time. Comfort food does not get any better than this.