I’ve always loved Sunday in the South. Growing up, my family and I would go to church on Sunday morning, and often come home to eat dinner around the table in our eat-in kitchen. Mama would make homemade lasagna with mayonnaise biscuits or fried pork chops, served on her blue and white china, and my Grandma would join us too. After dinner, we’d make our way to the front porch and spend the afternoon sipping sweet tea and talking in the swing and rocking chairs. There’s no place like home.
Sunday is a day of rest, for family and fellowship. Today, I continue that tradition with my family, and one recipe I turn to again and again is Herb Roasted Chicken in my cast iron skillet. Steaming hot and full of flavor, it cooks all at once in one dish. Clean-up is easy, and the flavors are so earthy, warm and soul-satisfying. Roast chicken is simple enough to prepare for family on a weeknight, but also impressive enough to serve to company. My husband and I recently had another couple over for a small dinner party, and I made roast chicken with crispy Brussels sprouts and red potatoes. Everyone enjoyed it and requested the recipe. Roasting is one of the most flavorful techniques in cooking, and when executed well, the sky is the limit.
Today I’m sharing my recipe for Herb Roasted Chicken with you. The vegetables you choose to roast with the chicken are versatile, as are the seasonings and fat used on the bird. Some recipes use olive oil and others call for softened butter. Both are effective for producing a crisp skin. Make my recipe just the way it is, or use it as a guide and substitute the flavors you enjoy most. Cooking is all about experimenting and I hope you’ll do just that.
I love making this recipe with my cast iron skillet, but if you don’t have one, feel free to use a roasting pan or a 9 x 13 casserole dish for this recipe. The skin of the chicken gets crispy and golden brown and the vegetables soak up all the juices, making this meal the most tender comfort food feast. Meanwhile, your entire home will beckon neighbors with its enticing aroma. Serve this for Sunday supper for an extra special sit down meal with the family.
The important thing to remember when cooking chicken is to understand that poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to be safe to eat. Be sure to temp your meat before you eat!
Here’s what you’ll need:
• (1) 4-5 pound whole chicken
• 1 cup each onion, celery and peeled carrots, roughly chopped
• 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 1 lemon, juice and hull
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tbsp. dried Basil
• 1 tbsp. dried Oregano
• ½ cup chicken stock
For the gravy:
• Pan drippings
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 2 tbsp. of flour
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Dress the bird by squeezing the juice of half a lemon over the outside, then place the other half of the lemon inside the cavity of the chicken. Next, slather the bird with olive oil and season it liberally with salt, pepper and dried herbs. If possible, dress the bird a day in advance, and when you’re ready to cook it the next day, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to reach room temperature before roasting.
Make a “bird nest” in your cast iron skillet by piling the chopped vegetables in the center. Season them with salt and pepper, and toss them all together with a teaspoon of olive oil. Perch the bird on the top, breast side up. Pour ½ cup of chicken stock into the pan. Roast in a 375-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes. Before serving, allow the bird to rest 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the vegetables and turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Roast the vegetables in the pan for about 10 minutes, until they are browned and crispy on top.
If desired, make a pan gravy with the drippings. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and keep warm. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the drippings and cook on medium heat, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Slowly whisk in a cup of chicken stock and stir until thickened, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add more stock if needed. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, and stir until it melts. Serve over rice, alongside the roasted chicken and vegetables.
3 steps to care for your cast iron skillet
1. After each use, hand wash with hot water and a sponge. No soap!
2. Dry immediately with a clean kitchen towel.
3. To keep the pan “seasoned” and protected from moisture, after every wash, rub a light coat of vegetable oil (enough to restore the sheen) over the surface of the pan using a paper towel and store.
And no matter what, never put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher!
Food Network Star finalist Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast and writer. Her blog, Some Kinda Good, features Southern, coastal recipes, locally sourced and in-season. Like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, follow @SKGFoodBlog on Twitter and Instagram or visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.