Roasted chicken always evokes memories of one of the most stressful times in my life. Graduation from my apprenticeship program at Colonial Williamsburg. Everything you’ve learned in three years boiled down into one hour test with chefs watching your every move. Not to mention, I had been an assistant to this test for three other upperclassmen-so perfection was expected from me. About a year before my actual test is when my nightmares about it started. I’m not even afraid to admit, after my first horrendous attempt at a run-through of the test it left me in tears.
What does this have to do with a roasted chicken? Well, it’s was the entree. I can honestly say now, I can make an amazing whole roasted chicken with my eyes closed.
And if you’re wondering…I rocked that test.
Years ago, in a Martha Stewart magazine, I had seen a recipe for roasted chicken with grapes. I never made it, but it stuck with me. It seemed like such an odd couple, but a few hours ago I found myself with a whole chicken and all the ingredients to whip this up. I must say, it’s freakin’ delicious. Martha has always been my secret hero. When I was in high school (during my punk rock phase, no less) I horded her magazine and cookbooks. I remember hiding them under my bed, like they were dirty magazines, when my friends came over so they wouldn’t judge me. The silly things kids do…
This isn’t Martha’s recipe, just something I put together on the spot for a no-fuss dinner.
The difference between a great roast chicken and merely a decent one is the skin. It’s a sad bird that doesn’t end up with a crisp, deep brown exterior, but how do you get it that way?
The key to crispiness is making sure the skin is dry when it hits the oven. For best results, salt the bird several hours before roasting, then let it air-dry, uncovered, in the fridge. If you forget to salt and dry, parking the chicken in front of an electric fan will get its skin nice and dry in about an hour.
Here is a picture of my bird, before it hit the oven. You can tell it’s been dried out and actually looks a bit sad, but this will help get a nice golden skin.
Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Grapes & Shallots
- 1 1/4 pounds assorted seedless grapes (such as green, red, and black), cut into small clusters
- 6 large shallots (about 10 ounces), peeled, halved through root end
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme plus 6 large sprigs
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary plus 6 large sprigs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 4-to 4 1/2-pound chicken, excess fat removed from cavity
Preheat oven to 400°F. Gently toss grape clusters, shallots, chopped thyme & rosemary, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl to coat. Rub chicken with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place thyme & rosemary sprigs in cavity. Place chicken in large roasting pan; arrange grape mixture around chicken. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken thigh registers 155°F and grapes are shriveled, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
Transfer chicken to platter; let rest 10 minutes (the carry-over cooking should bring the chicken up to 165°F for a juicy chicken). Using slotted spoon, arrange grapes and shallots around chicken. Transfer pan juices to small pitcher; spoon fat from surface of juices and discard. Serve chicken with pan juices alongside.