This is probably the first thing we should’ve learned how to do. Everyone knows how to roast a basic chicken, right? Or they should. Now we do, and it’s one of the best things ever.
It took a few tries (five or so?) to get here. We tweaked the technique. Added rosemary. Took it away for a few tries and added lemon. He ordered a roasting pan but we soon ditched it for our cast iron skillet. On page 645 of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, the margins are bordered in scribbles with exclamation marks.
Danny still says he wants to roast a better chicken, but he’s crazy. It’s time to write this recipe down somewhere we won’t lose it because this is now the way we make it every time. For that crispier, browner skin, the brine and patting the chicken dry are important steps. The sugar and salt brine is something Danny didn’t forget when we asked a local chef how his chicken got so damn crispy and delicious. Sugar, he told us.
Wine and garlic are thrown into the skillet to mix in with the chicken juices and make the most glorious sauce. It’s rich and brown and when you pour it over the chicken, there’s nothing left to do but pick it up with your hands. Grab the napkins. Forget the forks.
After several attempts, this is the way we roast a chicken on the weekend. You can dress it up by adding rosemary along with the lemon or rubbing spices into the chicken skin. One time we threw in some kumquats with the garlic. But we love this recipe because it gives us a juicy and flavorful chicken every time.
gallon of water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
3- or 4-pound chicken, giblets removed
extra-virgin olive oil
6(ish) garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
To prepare the brine, place a gallon of water in a large bowl (or Dutch oven) or enough water to submerge the chicken. Stir in 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar until dissolved. Carefully place chicken in brine and refrigerate uncovered overnight or for 4 to 8 hours.
Heat oven to 500°F and place cast iron skillet in the lower third of the oven.
Remove the chicken from the bowl and rinse with cold water briefly. Dump the brine. Place chicken on a plate and pat down thoroughly with paper towels. Get it dry! This will help it brown. Rub 3 tablespoons olive oil all over the chicken. Rub salt and pepper onto the chicken as well. Slice lemon in half and place it in the cavity.
Carefully place the chicken breast side up in the hot skillet; you’ll hear it sizzle as soon as it hits the skillet. Place the chicken in the oven. After 10 minutes, toss the garlic cloves in the skillet. After 5 minutes, when the chicken is starting to brown, add 1/2 cup white wine to the skillet.
Bring the heat down to 350°F. Roast until the chicken is golden brown and reaches an internal temperature of 155°F in the breast or 160°F in the thigh, about 45 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into the chicken. Meanwhile, pour the sauce and browned bits from the skillet into a small bowl. This stuff is gold. Serve chicken with sauce.
Serves 4 or 5. Adapted from Mark Bittman.