As a child I was lucky enough to grow up eating food prepared by two amazing chefs: Dalma, a tall, handsome, West Indian so tough that he didn’t use oven mitts and Patrick, a short, lithe Frenchman who informed me that making duck confit, from scratch, was easy. Both of them were lovely people and answered my questions about cooking.
If you are a personal friend of mine, I have probably served you roast chicken for dinner at some point. For years, it was the only recipe I knew that could serve four hungry people in an attractive fashion. And a well-made roast chicken is just so attractive. Golden brown crispy skin, the juices pooling on the serving dish. It’s all I can do not to just rip off a piece before plopping it down on the table… A friend was just telling me about his recipe for roast chicken using a cast iron skillet, and it reminded me how much I love making this dish.
So, my roast chicken recipe is a combination of Dalma and Patrick’s recipes. I use Dalma’s dry rub of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, onion Powder, garlic powder and adobo sprinkled thickly all over the chicken. Inside the cavity goes a split onion, a bay leaf and more of the same spices.
Patrick taught me the preparation. Get the chicken as dry as you can. Wash your hands and then warm up a large pat of butter between your palms. Once it’s soft, smear it all over the chicken. Season it and then cook it at 450F for 15-20 minutes, until the top starts to take on a decent color. Then cover it loosely with aluminum foil (poke a few holes in it) and turn the heat down to 325F and cook for another 75-90 minutes. If you wish, you can also throw a cup or two of sliced potatoes tossed in olive oil and butter in the bottom of the pan. If you are cooking a lot of potatoes you’ll need to add some stock or water at some point so they don’t dry out.
The chicken is done when you tip it back and the juices in the cavity run clear.
It will look almost brown with a crispy skin and will smell amazing but DO NOT not tear right into it. Let it sit for 15 minutes, or better yet, half an hour. Be patient. Have a drink. Make a salad. Then gather around the table with your family and friends and enjoy.