Roast Chicken with melting onions and cauliflower

Roast Chicken with melting onions and cauliflower

There are few meals more satisfying than a whole roasted chicken done right. With crispy seasoned skin and juicy flavorful meat, it’s easier than you think to make. A French chef taught me to slice Vidalia onions thick and sit the chicken on top of them so that they slowly cook in the drippings from the bird until they are melting, rich and sweet. They make this perfect little condiment you can eat on its own, mopped up with bread or roasted potatoes. At this time of year I love to roast cauliflower. Roasting the cauliflower brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable and completely transforms it. The florets become these crunchy nutty morsels that even kids love. You can eat the cauliflower just like that and it’s wonderful.  But if you try mixing the roasted cauliflower with the onions and some of the drippings you end up with something spectacular. There are so many ways to IMG_0248finish the dish too. You could simply add some salt and pepper to taste and maybe chopped parsley and call it a day. Or you could soak some raisins for 10 minutes in apple cider vinegar, then drain and add to the mixture along with some chopped mint. For guests recently I tossed in Lovage leaves, pomegranate seeds and a touch of high quality syrupy balsamic vinegar.  I always leave out a small bowl of the plain roasted cauliflower that I drizzle with honey for the kids before tossing in the other stuff if they decide to be fickle that day. 😉

As for the chicken, there are a few tricks that I use to ensure that the skin comes out crispy and the meat succulent. First, the day before you are cooking the chicken take it out of its package, carefully drain the juices and pat it dry, do not wash it. One of the most common misconceptions is that you should wash a chicken. Washing a chicken doesn’t remove any salmonella from it, it just sprays it all over your kitchen sink, counter and drain board. You kill Salmonella by cooking your chicken to the proper temperature or by using a chemical sanitizer like bleach. Place it on a Corningware or a plate with high sides to catch any juices that might leak out and leave it in your fridge overnight to dry out even further. This removes water from the skin to help it crisp up and actually improves the texture of the meat. Many cultures hang and age their poultry before eating it, and getting it out of the bag of blood, juice and gizzards gives it less opportunity to spoil and develop off flavors and smells.

The second is to salt the crap out of the skin before you cook it. There needs to be almost a crust of salt on the skin that you shouldn’t panic about because it does not penetrate to the meat. If you want, you can remove the amazing bite of crunchy salty bliss or you can get over it and eat a thin sliver as punctuation for the 2 inches of unseasoned flesh underneath. Lastly, do yourself a huge favor and get an instant read thermometer. That is the kind that you insert in the food after its cooked to take its temperature, not the kind you insert from the beginning. A chicken can differ in size, density, and temperature when you put it in the oven. Oven temps fluctuate too so cooking time is a guideline. If you want to know when your chicken is done “temp it,” as we say in the cooking world, and you can’t go wrong. It should read 165 in the thickest part of the leg, near the bone but not touching it. Be sure to let the chicken rest before carving it. It finishes cooking the bird and redistributes the juices into the flesh. Then you can eat.

Roast Chicken with Melted onions and Cauliflower

Serves 2-4

1 Large Vidalia Onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2-3/4″ rounds

1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 lbs, neck and gizzards removed

2 Tablespoons chopped thyme (sage, rosemary or any combination of them works too)

1 Head CauliflowerIMG_0204

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

1.Preheat oven to 425F.

2.Keeping rounds intact, lay onion slices down in a skillet the size of the chicken.

3. Generously salt all sides of the chicken, then sprinkle on pepper and herbs evenly. Tuck wing tips underneath chicken and place chicken on top of onions.

4. Place in preheated oven and roast until when pierced in the leg juices run clear and internal temperature reads 165F, about 1 hour. Remove chicken from pan using tongs or a roasting fork, draining the juices back into the onions, and let rest on a cutting board about 15 minutes.

5. While chicken is roasting, remove the core out of the Cauliflower and cut into 1″ florets. Toss in a bowl with 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt and pepper. Dump onto a cookie sheet and roast until tender with brown spots, about 3o-40 minutes, giving the pan a shake and stir every 10-15 minutes.

6. After the chicken comes out of the oven, turn the oven temperature down to 300F. Put cauliflower and onions back in the oven to finish cooking and reduce juices. Cook 10-15 minutes more until cauliflower is soft and onions are melting.

7. Remove onions and cauliflower from the oven and toss together in a bowl, using as much of the chicken fat as desired. (I am guilty of using it all.) Taste and add salt and pepper if needed and serve as is or dress it to finish.

8. Rip apart the chicken, eat it with the sides and lick your fingers.

Footnote: After the meat is off the carcass you should absolutely save it to throw in the slow cooker the next day and make chicken stock. You can read all about it here.