To me, roast chicken is one of those perfect foods – the flavor is gorgeous on its own, with just a little seasoning.  But, since the meat is so lovely and mild, you can flavor the bird almost any way imaginable — Indian, Mexican, Italian, French — you’re really only limited by your imagination. 

And, for the investment of about 15 minutes of prep time on Saturday or Sunday morning, you can have sandwich or salad meat for the week, or meat for a pasta dish one night and tacos the next.  Roasting a chicken is the ultimate in multi-tasking meals – pop it in the oven and maybe baste it once or twice over the course of the cooking time – it doesn’t require loads of attention, so it’s the perfect thing to make when you’ve got other things to do!

Red’s Roast Chicken for the Week

  • 4 carrots, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces on the diagonal
  • 4 celery sticks, trimmed and cut in half width-wise
  • 1 large onion (or 2 medium), trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2″ rings
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, whole unpeeled
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • water, if needed
  • salt and pepper
  • (Optional) – lemon, quartered lenghwise, 2 sprigs rosemary, sage, peeled garlic, etc
  • 1 medium-ish chicken (about 3 or 4 lbs)

Preheat the oven to 325.  Rather than using a roasting rack, you’re going to set your chicken on top of the vegetables, so take a roasting pan about 4″ deep and big enough for the chicken (but not too big) and line the bottom of it with your onion, carrots, celery and garlic.  Set your chicken on top – if you’d like to give it a little extra flavor, feel free to stuff it with your quartered lemon, various herbs, whatever you like.  If you don’t want to stuff it, that’s okay, too – season the cavity with salt and pepper.  Drizzle the olive oil on top of the chicken and rub it into the skin, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Lastly, pour the white wine and stock into the bottom of the roasting pan – it should just touch the base of the bird.  If it doesn’t, add water until it reaches that point.  Roast for about 1 hour, 45 minutes, basting every 30 -40 minutes, until the chicken reaches a temperature of 160 on an instant-read thermometer.

If you’re not eating the bird right away, but plan to use it for other meals during the week, here’s my favorite thing to do:  once you’ve drained all the liquid from the inside of the bird into the roasting tin, let the bird rest breast-down on the plate so that, as the juices settle, they’ll drain from the backbone and thighs into the breast, keeping it nice and moist.  Tent the bird and let her rest at least 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle, then denude her and put the meat into a zippy bag for later in the week.

And now, a lagniappe … the liquid in the bottom of that roasting pan is flavored with the vegetables, the chicken, the white wine and the broth … baby, you’re 95% of the way to gravy, all you need is a little heat and thickener.  So, those nights when you want to pan-fry a chicken breast and serve it with some mashed potatoes and green beans, how nice would it be to have a little homemade gravy on stand-by???  All you need to do is strain the liquid into a bowl or measuring cup and let it sit to get all that yummy goodness to drain while the chicken is cooling.  Once it’s to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for a day so that the fat will solidify (it’s sooooo much easier to skim the fat this way!), pour it into a sandwich-size zippy bag, and store it in the freezer.  Make sure you label it well! 

When you’re ready to use it, you can either make a roux of a tablespoon of butter and a heaping tablespoon of flour (or so) or thicken it with corn starch.  To make a roux, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour and stir until it’s thick, smooth and starting to color.  Slowly add the liquid from the chicken, mixing in a little at a time, then raise the heat, bringing it to a boil.  Taste for seasoning and serve!  An easier and faster method is to simply pour the liquid into a pan and bring to a simmer, remove 3 or 4 tablespoons into a small bowl and mix with a heaping  tablespoon of corn starch, mixing to remove the lumps, then pour back into the pan, bring to the boil and stir until thick.