February 20, 2018
Six years ago, we renovated our kitchen. I went from an old 1978 oven, the kind they put in track homes, to an industrial size Wolf, the oven of my dreams. With this beautiful oven, I would bake and cook magical things, and everything would come out perfect. My son had just graduated college and was moving back. My daughter was about to go off to college. So I was determined to make that summer memorable. I had Sunday family dinner fantasies, you know the kind – everyone sitting around the dinner table, laughing, talking, making memories. The whole Normal Rockwell thing.
To top it off, I had visions of being Ina Garten, making her perfect roast chicken for dinner every Sunday, the table set beautifully, the roast coming out of the oven golden with crispy skin and moist, tender meat. Well, I made that roast, and it was a flop. The meat was dry and the skin looked sick. I tried again the next weekend, and the next, only to have all three attempts end in disaster and a total splatter mess in my new oven. After that, my family found an excuse to either eat out or request something else – anything but chicken. My daughter still makes fun of me because, the entire time she was growing up, I would say, “The chicken is dry, dip in it the gravy,” or the sauce, or whatever. And so there died my dreams of making a Sunday chicken dinner for my family.
Yesterday, I woke up and convinced myself to find a recipe to work through. Actually, I forced myself to look through the book and see if anything caught my eye. I ended up just going to the market to be inspired. They had a great sale on whole chicken at $1.69 a pound. Inspiration!
When a recipe includes a warning that you should temporarily unplug your smoke detector, you have many thoughts that go through your mind – mostly, “Oh, no,” and then your head starts to spin with visions of the potential danger ahead. The genius tip included with the recipe (which you can find on the Food52 website) says to expect a lot of spattering and/or smoke. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you can set it and use it when you go to bed that night. But the Genius Recipes editors also write that you might be able to avoid this by adding chopped potatoes to the pan to soak up all the juices and keep the chicken from making a huge mess in your oven in the first place. That, I could do – and it worked.
This dish is a true winner! A double, triple winner!!! It made me a GENIUS. Truly. It was so simple, so easy, and not at all scary once it was done. You set the oven at high heat, add some butter, lemon and garlic to the chicken cavity. You salt and pepper the outside, then stick it in the oven and wait until it’s done. The book says it should take about ten minutes per pound. I know my oven is calibrated to cook at the registered temperature, yet it still took an extra 15 minutes. I did see the juices running out, and some spattering, but the potatoes caught all that goodness. The skin was golden and crispy and the meat was very moist.
There is an option for making a gravy with the juices, but I opted not to. By the time I got to that step, I was tired and we were ready to eat. Next time, I’ll give it a try. I think it could only add to an already perfect dish, and all I’ll need to do is start cooking a little earlier.
Barbara Kafka, the creator of this recipe, is the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the author of many, many cookbooks, and the winner of the Best Single Subject Cookbook at the 2006 IACP Awards for her book Vegetable Love. She was a regular contributor to The New York Times. In my mind, she is definitely a genius.
My dreams of having family come to Sunday dinner have been revived. The fantasy of having that beautifully set table is back, all of us together and sharing a really excellent chicken dinner.
The cost: $12.10 with the chicken on sale.
The time: 1 hour and 15 minutes. Prep time was 10 minutes and cooking time was 65. Easy peasy.