In the world of food, chicken is undeniably the most versatile of the meats. It can be married up with a myriad of accompaniments without missing a beat and is a staple ingredient in recipes worldwide.
My favorite chicken recipes are those that feature the natural flavors from within the chicken meat. Simple and delicate execution of dishes will always grab my attention, as they showcase the ingredients and allow your palate to focus on the star of the dish.
For roasted chicken, I like to use simple herbs and natural juices to elevate the dish to that next level. The inspiration for this dish is actually quite straightforward: Tuscany. While my experience in the Italian region is quite limited, it left its mark in my memory. It definitely lives up to its cliche description of sunflowers, warm nights, and rolling hills of green.
The mantra of Italian food (contrary to many people’s misconceptions) is to keep things simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Starting out with quality ingredients is enough to make the dish sing when executed simply, and that’s what I sought to achieve with my roasted chicken. This particular take features the subtle flavor of lemon to cut through the richness of the chicken thigh fat.
To prep, take your cuts of chicken (could be anything, I decided on thighs as a good cut with skin) and rinse them well to remove any dirt or clingy things that aren’t supposed to be there. Dry the chicken cuts off, and place them in a roasting pan. Get some good olive oil and slather the chicken with it. Get your hands in there and rub the oil over the meat. Don’t be shy. You want to give the chicken a nice coat so that it cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out in the high heat of the oven.
Now, season the chicken all around with good salt and pepper and your choice of herbs. I went with some chili flake and herbs de provence, since that’s what I had at the time. I would suggest fresh thyme and rosemary if those are handy. I also chopped up some quarters of onion to give the dish a bit more body. Crushed garlic would also be a great flavor to add if you want something bolder.
Next, get a lemon and roll against the board a little bit to get the juices flowing. Slice it thinly but not so thin that it falls apart, and scatter the slices on top of the chicken. Spread them out so that they can distribute the flavor while cooking. Now grab some white wine and give the chicken a splash of the good stuff. The wine is going to be the base of what will become the gravy that results from roasting the chicken. Now lastly, roll the pan around a little to try and distribute all the goodness across all the chicken pieces evenly before covering it with some tinfoil.
Throw the pan into the oven at a temperature of 450 degrees F. Check the progress after 45 minutes. If the chicken seems a bit undercooked, leave it for another 10-15 minutes. After that, remove the foil and crank the oven up to a full 500. This is to get a nice browned exterior and give some texture to the chicken. When the chicken is goldened/browned to your liking, remove it from the oven.
Plate it with some spinach or rice or orzo, and squeeze some fresh lemon over the chicken before serving. Buon appetito!