One of many lessons learned from the Barefoot Contessa.

 

Aside from immediate family, my earliest culinary training was under the televised tutelage of the Barefoot Contessa. By the age of 12, I scoffed at imitation vanilla extract and pre-shredded cheese (in my mother’s words, “Ina Garten had created a monster”). Nevertheless, my parents took my “ingredient requests” and tacked them on to the grocery list so I could experiment with recipes for the family.

Eventually, the grocery list became my grocery bill, and my years in college quickly taught that a practical meal needed to yield leftovers that could be repurposed in different ways. When it came to a protein (other than dozens of eggs lining my fridge), buying a whole chicken was the most economical way to buy meat. I found myself once again standing on the shoulders of the Barefoot Contessa.

A well-roasted chicken is downright extraordinary. It yields leftovers that can be used in almost anything, and frankly, it’s the most simply delicious meal of the week. The Barefoot Contessa first taught me to stuff the cavity with a lemon, a head of garlic, and a handful of fresh thyme—and that it’s a crime to leave out vegetables beneath the bird to roast in the fat that renders from the chicken in the oven. After making a habit of this every week, I experimented—using orange instead of lemon, or tarragon instead of thyme, or fennel instead of carrots. Some weeks, I’d marinate the entire bird in beer or buttermilk a day before roasting. These substitutions subtly changed the flavor of the meat, but I found that a properly roasted chicken always comes out beautifully.

How To Roast A Chicken

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Let the bird sit at room temperature for an hour before roasting. I pat the bird dry and stuff the cavity with a head of garlic sliced in half, some kind of citrus, a handful of a fresh herb, and plenty of kosher salt. Then cut root vegetables and potatoes and whatever other vegetable sounds good and toss them in a little olive oil with salt. Place those in the bottom of a roasting pan, position the bird on top on the veggies with the breast side up. Brush the chicken with a little olive oil and roast it for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers at 155°F. I then cover the bird and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.