There’s something about roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy that screams comfort food to me. And I’ve made many a dinner highlighting these ingredients over the decades. The basis of this recipe hails from Mark Bittman of the NY Times Cooking site. With an ingredient list just four items long (chicken, olive oil, salt, pepper), the genius of this bare-bones roast chicken is in its technique.
To make it, thoroughly preheat a cast-iron skillet before placing a seasoned bird, breast side up, in it. In under an hour you’ll get a stunner of a chicken, with moist, tender white meat, crisp, salty chicken skin, and juicy dark meat all done to perfection. Your mouth watering yet?
If you don’t already have a cast-iron skillet large enough to hold a whole chicken, this recipe is a good enough reason to invest in one.Mark Bittman
We, of course, had to kick it up a notch. Knowing we wanted to have garlicky mashed potatoes on the side, gravy is a must for the spuds. In order to get more depth of flavor, we stuffed the cavity of the chicken with a Meyer lemon, shallot, and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and sage). Not only did the additional ingredients subtly permeate the meat, but they added an amazing amount of flavor to the pan sauce.
So we’ve taken Mark’s simple recipe and expanded the directions to include our flavor enhancers and gravy. Our chicken—at less than 3 pounds—was probably the tiniest one I’ve ever cooked, so it came to temperature on the quicker side.
Honestly, after just one bite, we oooohed and aaahed all the way through dinner. You can always skip the additional cavity-stuffing ingredients and gravy to simplify things, but with very little additional effort, why would you? Plus we got the bonus of saving the carcass, stuffing and all, for future homemade stock…
Simple Iron Skillet Roast Chicken and Gravy
- 1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
- Fresh herbs: a few sprigs each of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage
- 1 or 2 shallots, peeled and slice in half lengthwise
- 1 Meyer lemon or orange, sliced in half or quartered
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, make a slurry with 1/4 cup cool water
- Put a cast-iron skillet on a low rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
- Insert your stuffing ingredients such as fresh herbs, shallots and citrus. Truss the legs with kitchen twine.
- Rub the chicken all over with the oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
- When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes.
- Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the bird is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees.
- Tip the pan to let the juices flow from the chicken’s cavity into the pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 5 minutes.
- While the chicken is resting, add the stock to the skillet and bring to a rolling simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry, and continue a rolling simmer for a few minutes to let the gravy thicken.
- Return any accumulated juices from the chicken into the gravy. Carve the bird and serve.