keller’s ad hoc-inspired roast chicken

“How did you get the skin so crispy?” It was the first thing my husband asked me as he started carving the bird. I took this as an indicator that this recipe, although we had not tasted it yet, was going to be a great one.

roast chicken & veggies

Let me back up a bit. Before I made this, I had only roasted a chicken once before – years ago, when I was just starting to learn to cook. Unfortunately for me, that first chicken had a few scraggly feathers still left on it when I unwrapped it from the grocer’s plastic. Those few chicken feathers immediately conjured up images of happy white-feathered hens clucking around the yard, and that train of thought led me to think of the pet chicken we owned when I was a kid. Dixie was a sweet hen who, in all honesty, thought she was a dog. Her best friend was our dog, Jesse, and she was always at Jesse’s side.

So, those feathers left on that raw chicken made it really difficult for me to roast and cut up the bird. And I certainly did not enjoy one single bite of it. And, because I was acting so squeamish about the whole thing, I’m sure my husband didn’t enjoy it either. He ate it, but I think he was expecting a good case of food poisoning after the experience.


But this is a new era for me. Time – and practice in the kitchen – have helped me become less squeamish about handling raw meats, including chickens with scraggly feathers left on them. So, I decided it was time to roast a chicken again.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home is a fantastic book, and he has a wonderful recipe on page 22 for roasting a whole chicken on a bed of root vegetables. What I love about his recipes is that he gives great tips before each recipe for how to ensure a perfect result. At the beginning of this recipe, Keller says,

The root vegetables make a bed for the chicken, and the rendering fat and juices from the chicken flavor the vegetables. If you have a big cast-iron skillet, use that.

roasting veggies

For the crispy skin, which was the first thing my husband noticed, Keller advises,

We also often leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two, which dries the skin and thus helps it to crisp during the roasting.

Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet has written a post detailing the recipe from Keller’s book, so I’ll refer you there for the details.

I used the vegetables that I had on hand, which did not include the rutabagas, leeks, and turnips that the recipe calls for. Instead I used some red new potatoes, small Yukon gold potatoes, a yellow onion, and some carrots. I also used the new Lodge cast-iron skillet I purchased about a month ago. And, since I didn’t know that I was going to roast a chicken two days prior to making it, my chicken sat uncovered in the fridge for about six hours.

roasting veggies

And the chicken? It had intensely flavorful, crispy skin and was moist and tender on the inside. The vegetables were the most flavorful roast vegetables I’ve ever made, thanks to the rendered chicken fat in the skillet. I still need to practice my chicken trussing technique, but that’s simply a cosmetic issue.

roast chicken & veggies

So, thank you, Mr. Keller, for the perfect recipe for reintroducing me to roasting a chicken.

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9 Responses to “keller’s ad hoc-inspired roast chicken”

  1. 1
    Kristi Rimkus — March 13, 2010 @ 10:27 am

    This looks like the perfect Sunday evening meal. Love your pictures. Mouthwatering!

  2. 2
    merrygourmet — March 13, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    Thanks so much, Kristi. It really WAS mouthwatering.

  3. 3
    trissalicious — March 15, 2010 @ 5:16 am

    I know what you mean about getting squeamish! I still feel that way sometimes when preparing raw meat, especially chicken but the thought of having delicious and moist chicken with crispy skin makes it all worth it!

  4. 4
    Chelsey — March 15, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    I love your pictures, and what a beautiful site you have! Simple and Serene.

  5. 5
    Winnie — March 15, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

    I adore Thomas Keller’s roast chicken. Your pictures are lovely and that bird looks delish!
    You have a very nice blog btw…I’ll be back!

    • 5.1
      merrygourmet — March 15, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

      Thank you so much for the compliments! His chicken is definitely a great recipe. I’ll be making it again, without question.

  6. 6
    Silvia Botros — May 7, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    I did that same recipe (also off of The amateur gourmet) in my lodge cast iron. My husband usually insists on slow cooking chicken on the stove because he worries about them tasting undercooked….this was a total hit with him….
    I did not roast veggies (though I plan to the next time I make this)..instead, I used the pan juices to make gravy with lemons….it rocked!

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