Six years ago, early in my culinary journey, I decided I wanted to roast a chicken. It was merely something I had never tried, and I figured I was about to be a mom, so I should learn how to cook. Confession, I was not a good cook in our early marriage. My childhood memories of food had lots of baking, and ground turkey filled casseroles. Cooking with cuts of meat, fresh herbs, and lots of different vegetables was not familiar territory. I wanted to fix that, and roasting a chicken seemed like a good place to start.
At the time, I was pretty obsessed with Ina Garten, and so it just seemed logical that I make Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken. Her recipe calls for fennel. I'd heard of it, but had no idea it was a vegetable. Wasn't fennel an herb? Yep. I was venturing into uncharted territory.
Carefully I chopped the vegetables and dressed my chicken, painstakingly checking and rechecking her recipe just to make sure I got it right. It looked right. Fingers crossed, I put the bird in the oven and set the timer for 90 minutes.
Our tiny apartment soon filled with the mouthwatering smells of roast chicken. It seemed to be working! When the timer went off, I triumphantly took my chicken out of the oven and cut into the skin as Ina said. The juices ran clear! We had waited15 LONG minutes and then snuck a taste. IT WAS AMAZING!!! That chicken was so good we just stood there in the kitchen with forks in hand and ate straight out of the pan. It was, for me, a culinary milestone that I will never forget.
Now, six years later, I have roasted many a chicken. Soon, it was no longer Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe. It became mine. I started playing with the types of vegetables, and changing the herbs and was confident that as long as I followed the simple, Ina guided equation, it would result in juicy, mouthwatering chicken every time.
Jason and I now roast double the veggies and two chickens at once. Chickens are small, so two fit easily in a large roasting pan. We shred up the leftover chicken and make a second meal later in the week, and are left with enough bones and veggie scraps to make a batch of chicken stock. This is what we were planning to do this week, but the weather got in the way.
This past weekend, Western WA was dumped with record-breaking amounts of snow. This area of the country is not equipped to deal with this kind of weather, and as a result, pandemonium ensued at the grocery stores. Patrons cleaned house of all the basics, stocking up for being snowbound for the unforeseeable future. Jason called me from the store and informed me that there were no chickens left...
Not to worry! I had a bunch of chicken thighs in the freezer. We improvised. I prepared the meal much in the same manner as if I were roasting a whole bird. Chicken thighs are cooked to a very high internal temp and often improve the longer they roast. I would NOT attempt this recipe with breasts, or even going boneless & skinless. Chicken breasts would likely dry out, and I see so much value in skins and bones for flavor and future stock making that I never cook without them.
I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as we do! The pan had nine thighs in it and probably 8-10 cups of roasted vegetables. At the end of our meal, there were three thighs left and about 4 cups of veggies. Even our four-year-old daughter had two bowls. Next time I need to feed a crowd, I think this recipe will come out. It's less fussy than carving a whole chicken and gets similar results. Let me know if you try it and how it turned out! Happy cooking.
9 chicken thighs, bone-in & skin on
1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried thyme
6 garlic cloves, cut in large pieces
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
8 carrots cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, and garlic in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and olive oil. Spread the veggies in an even layer and rest the chicken on top. The chicken should cover a majority of the veggies in the pan.
Roast the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees F, and the skin is nice and brown, and the vegetables are tender. This will take about an hour. Remove the pan from the oven, cover it for 15 minutes with foil/lid to rest. Serve and enjoy!
Chicken thighs are a cut of meat that can handle being cooked longer, so if you're unsure, let it keep cooking.
If you don't have a good kitchen thermometer, I highly recommend getting one. It is a worthwhile investment.
This recipe is easily scalable. Decide how much chicken you would like and choose a pan where the chicken will cover a majority of the surface. Then cut up the quantity of veggies needed to fill the bottom of the pan.