Roast Chicken #4 - Mark Bittman's "Simplest Roast Chicken"
For this month’s installment of The Roast Chicken Project, I present to you a roast chicken billed as the “Simplest Roast Chicken” by a man who taught us to cook everything. I would agree that this chicken is simple, but it would also be appropriate to call it the easiest roast chicken, minimalist roast chicken, weeknight roast chicken, etc. You get the idea. This chicken is easy, and a great no-frills recipe for when you don’t have 3 hours to make dinner. Yes, it does call for specialty cookware with the cast iron pan, but really, why don’t you have one of those yet?
So does oh so simple recipe work? Does a blast of high heat and shorter roasting time give us a chicken that is juicy, crispy, and satisfying in flavor? Yes, yes it does. The olive oil and the high heat give the chicken a super crispy skin (and a lot of smoke - this one needs strong fan and an open window), and the salt and pepper, if you use them generously, give the chicken great seasoning. Seriously, don’t skimp on the salt! The dark meat and breast meat were both done at the same time, although the breast on my bird was a little dry, but I’m willing to attribute that to the fact that the breast was tiny on this particular chicken and I may have roasted it at a higher temperature than called for because my oven doesn’t regulate very well. There is no flipping of the bird (hehe) in this recipe, and the skin on the bottom wasn’t as crispy as the top from sitting in the drippings, but that was a minor sacrifice for less hassle, in my opinion. I turned those drippings into a most delicious pan sauce with minimal effort, and served myself a delicious, fancy-ish chicken dinner in a little over an hour. Not too shabby.
For sure this is a winner for weeknight chicken dinner, because there is no drying overnight, no tucking of wings or trussing, and no basting or flipping. It’s the epitome of last minute, hands off roast chicken, and is definitely staying in the rotation in my kitchen.
But, ahem, a note of caution from personal experience. This recipe is a wonder, but it only works if you put the chicken in the pan right side up, aka breast up. The first time I made this recipe I wasn’t paying attention and I put my chicken in upside down. The dark meat was underdone and I’m sure you can imagine what happened to the white meat. Just don’t do it, ok? Keep those pointy wing ends sticking up to the sky.
Simple & Quick Cast Iron Roasted Chicken
Adapted from Mark Bittman
One, 3-4 lb chicken
3 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
- Heat preheat oven to 500 degrees, and heat a cast iron pan in the oven while it preheats.
- Pat chicken dry and rub with the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper (don't skimp on the salt!).
- When oven is at 500 degrees, pull out the cast iron pan and place the chicken breast side up in the pan. It will immediately begin sizzling. Return pan with chicken to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and continue roasting. Check chicken after 45 minutes. Insert instant thermometer into the meatiest part of a thigh and if temperature is 155-165 degrees, chicken is done. Continue roasting if not at temperature, checking every 5 or 10 minutes.
- Lift chicken from the pan and tip so that any juices run out of the cavity into the pan. Remove chicken to a cutting board to rest for at least 15 minutes, then carve and serve.
- While chicken is resting, you can make a pan sauce. Place cast iron pan over medium high heat, and to the drippings add a couple spoonfuls of flour and whisk together to form a roux (you can pour off some of the juices and drippings before adding the flour, if you have more than a couple table spoons). To this add about 1/2 cup water or chicken stock (or more, if necessary), fresh herbs, a splash of wine, and anything else you have on hand that might be good. I added thyme and rosemary, a splash of a dry rose wine, and about 1/4 cup of frozen orange juice I had in the freezer. Let mixture thicken, finish off with a pat of butter and serve alongside the chicken.