Published September 1, 2006.
Roasting a few vegetables along with the chicken makes for an easy side dish, right? Greasy side dish is more like it. We set out to fine-tune this flawed Sunday-night classic.
When it comes to roasting chicken with vegetables, killing two birds with one stone usually means victimizing the veggies. They may be chock-full of chicken flavor, but they're also usually awash in grease and overcooked to mush.
We wanted a recipe that gave each component the attention it deserved--not just the chicken. We felt the dish should comprise juicy chicken meat, crispy-thin skin, and vegetables infused with chicken flavor, not just chicken fat. And we wanted enough chicken to feed a hungry family, which required chickens that weighed in at 6 to 8 pounds.
First, we needed to adapt both our classic brining and roasting methods to accommodate a big bird. Upping the concentration of the brine to 1 1/2 cups of both salt and sugar per gallon of water produced a fully seasoned chicken in just two hours. Adding garlic (two full heads) and six bay leaves to the brine produced a huge improvement in chicken flavor (interestingly, the enzyme responsible for garlic's characteristic bite is deactivated in the presence of very high concentration of salt, so there was no "garlicky" flavor, just a more intensive chicken flavor). The best and easiest way to roast the bird was to maintain a steady temperature of 400 degrees, rotating the chicken to allow for the white meat to cook at the same time as the dark meat. But what about the vegetables? The answer was a divorce. After removing the chicken to rest, we preserved the fond (browned bits) that was encrusted on the bottom of the roasting pan, and held it aside while initially roasting the veggies in plain vegetable oil (roasting in chicken fat made them sodden and greasy tasting). We restored the chicken flavor by adding the fond back for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.list of recipes