Once I learned to cook, it took a surprisingly long while before I tackled a roast chicken. Why? Because I was intimidated. I was worried I wouldn't cook it all the way through, or the breasts would be dry, or it would taste bland. The reality is, though, this dinner staple has remained just that — a staple — for so long because it is not only economical but also quite easy.
This chicken recipe is a pared down adaptation of Thomas Keller's version in Ad Hoc at Home, which saves time by using a high cooking temperature and simultaneously roasting the vegetables beneath the bird. Cooking root veggies this way not only cuts down on prep and cleaning time but also results in superior flavor, since they soak up and caramelize in the pan drippings.
When I'm pressed for time, I do little more than throw salt on a whole chicken and toss it into a really hot oven. That's basically the process in the recipe below, with a few minutes' added prep to create a beautiful, satisfying meal that can be made on a weeknight but is also worthy of company.
Most weeknights I don't bother with trussing the chicken, which enables even cooking and beautiful presentation. I've found that as long as I purchase quality chickens, a little extra cook time doesn't dry out the breasts.
Use this recipe as a template and don't feel the need to follow the ingredient list exactly. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand, keeping in mind that tender vegetables like zucchini and summer squash will cook more quickly and therefore can be added to the pan in larger chunks. Thick slices of onion are also welcome no matter what other vegetables you're including.
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