Let’s be honest, 2020 has been the most trying year overall—on so many levels. So when it comes to food, it makes sense to throw in a couple of comfort meals to soothe the soul and bring back memories of simpler times. One of my favorite comfort-inducing dinners is crispy-skinned roast chicken with homemade gravy, creamy mashed potatoes and a side veg.
And simple in the fact that you use just one pan, a large cast-iron skillet. The poultry, the vegetables and the gravy all do their magic in the same pan. Of course if you add some garlicky, creamy mashed potatoes, you’re on your own there. We had leftovers from another meal and just reheated them, making a perfect vehicle in which to ladle the gravy.
Not able to purchase a 5-pound chicken we went with the biggest we could get our hands on weighing in at just over 4 pounds. We thought the smaller size might mean less cooking time, but in the end, it took just as long as the recipe indicates for a 5-pounder: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Don’t be afraid to season the chicken generously. Salt and pepper not only makes the chicken taste good; they help render the fat, yielding a crispy, crackly crust—and who doesn’t love that? Sprinkle salt and pepper inside and outside the chicken for the best flavor. And for even more flavor, stuff the chicken with aromatics such as citrus, garlic, and/or herbs.
Check the chicken temperature about one hour in, the bird probably won’t be done yet, but you can turn the onions and carrots so that they get moisture all over and won’t dry out.
The Hubs realized the proportion to make the roux was incorrect so we changed the amount of flour from one tablespoon to two. His formula for every one cup of liquid, you need one tablespoon of fat and one tablespoon of flour. Therefore with two cups of chicken broth, we needed two tablespoons each of fat and flour.
Oh and don’t toss the luscious onions and garlic. Simply serve the onions mixed with the carrots; then squeeze some of those roasted garlic cloves right into the gravy which will also help thicken the sauce and add a touch of comfort-food goodness. We even went so far as to squeeze some onto our plates and mash it around to drag the chicken through.
Next time we make this, I’m going to switch out the citrus and herbs for orange and rosemary.
Cast-Iron Skillet Chicken
- 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
- Zested lemon cut in quarters for cavity
- 3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1 (5-lb.) whole chicken, giblets removed
- 1 (16-oz.) package carrots, peeled and cut into 5-inch pieces
- 1 large sweet onion, root-end intact, cut into wedges
- 1 head garlic, tips cut off, plus more cloves for cavity
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for cavity
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs
- In a small bowl, combine zest and 2 teaspoons salt. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Gently loosen skin from chicken, keeping skin intact. Rub salt mixture under skin and all over chicken. Place lemon halves, thyme and a few extra garlic cloves inside chicken cavity. Tie legs with kitchen twine. Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 425°. Let chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Place carrots, onion wedges, garlic head, and thyme in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Rub chicken with oil, and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
- Bake until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°, about 1 hour and 25 minutes, covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Remove chicken, carrots, onions and garlic from skillet; whisk in flour. Pour in broth, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. Stir in pepper. Serve gravy with chicken. Garnish with thyme, if desired.
Adapted from a recipe found on southerncastiron.com