Cooking For Others: Alex’s Roasted Chicken

EVENT: Sunday Night Dinner
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Prospect Heights
OCCASION: Homey Supper
MENU: Greek-Style Roasted Chicken with Potatoes

During our interview with Ina Garten about her new book, How Easy Is That?, I mentioned how Alex and I rarely had leftovers when he roasted me a chicken (we were talking about how to cook for two most simply, and Ina had suggested roasting a whole chicken early in the week and then repurposing the leftovers). All talk of practicality and leftovers ceased immediately. Ina laughed and said, “I’d say you have a good boyfriend if he makes you roasted chicken.”

I think I do too. But like any curious chef, I wasn’t content to let Alex keep the secrets of his chicken to himself. He taught me how to make it last spring, and since then it’s become my way of roasting chicken, too. I’ve done it with both whole chickens and chicken leg and thigh pieces, which are super economical.

Part of Alex’s heritage is Greek, and his chicken is flavored with Mediterranean accents: garlic, olive oil, lemon, oregano, and thyme. It’s different from the roasted chicken I grew up with, which my mom always rubbed with a mixture of paprika, salt, and minced garlic. I have to learn how to make that chicken too–I haven’t yet. So I’ll tell you more about Alex’s.

First, a disclaimer. What’s so great about this chicken is not its crispy skin. Because Alex cooks it at a slightly lower temperature for a bit longer, the meat–even the white meat–stays incredibly tender and juicy, but what’s sacrificed is that perfect, brittle, fatty skin. It’s not soft or mushy or anything, just not like what you’d get on a rotisserie chicken (on a rotisserie chicken, you can have it all–it’s just with home cooking that you have to choose). I know people rave about the Zuni Cafe chicken, and I’ll get to that sometime I’m sure. Right now, let’s go back to Alex’s Greek Style Roasted Chicken with Potatoes.

There are a few elements that make this chicken fantastic, borderline addictive. First, the meat. As I said, it’s juicy. Extraordinarily so. Alex also wedges thin slices of garlic into the into the meat before the bird goes into the oven, and these flavor the chicken as it cooks. He has also pioneered the upside-down method of chicken roasting. Most cooks, I think, bake the chicken breast side up, which inevitably dries out the meat in the time it takes to cook through. By flipping the chicken, and cooking it breast-side down, the meat gets both wet and dry heat, and it stays moist. Second, the lemon. The lemon browns the skin and adds a delightful tang, which cuts through the slightly murky flavor of cooked chicken–you know, that sort of fatty aftertaste you sometimes get. And third, the potatoes.

The potatoes that get cooked beneath the chicken are so good. I joke that I can imagine Chicken-Roasted Potatoes on a restaurant menu without the chicken–the chicken would just be a byproduct. There’s an alchemy somewhere in the mixture of lemon, olive oil, and the chicken’s juices that makes the potatoes tender and silken in the inside, crispy on the outside. After we finish eating dinner, we go at the baking dish with forks, scraping up every last morsel of the potatoes.

That’s really all there is to it in the end. Simple ingredients–a chicken, potatoes, lemon, herbs, and olive oil. A not-too-hot oven. And potatoes. But the taste is transcendant, and the smell makes the apartment feel like the warmest, homiest place on earth.

Which is why, when blogs and magazines everywhere are writing about turkeys, we’ve decided to feature this chicken. I go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving, but I imagine there are some quarter-lifers out there who, for whatever reason, can’t make it home next Thursday. If that’s the case, of course our advice is: invite some friends, buy some wine, and host a party at your place. For us, turkey still seems a bit daunting. But unless you go vegetarian (which is not a terrible option) roasted chicken fills the void. Just call it a Quarter-Life Turkey.

From my kitchen, warning you that this chicken is addictive, to yours,



Greek-Style Roasted Chicken with Potatoes
Serves 4

I have to admit, I don’t know that much about carving chickens. We kind of hack at it. But if you know better, carve neatly. And, if you want to share your carving wisdom with me, I’d be so appreciative–leave us a comment!

1 3-4 lb whole chicken, preferably organic
1 ½ pounds small waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the potatoes into 2-inch pieces and place them in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan (or thereabouts–something that is big enough for the chicken to rest on. Toss them with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and the oregano, and squeeze just a bit of half the lemon on top. Push the potatoes towards the edges, making a space in the center fort the chicken.

Rinse the chicken and remove the livers. Pat the chicken dry and put it, breast side up, on the baking dish that’s holding the potatoes. Using a paring knife, pierce it about three times in each half of the breast. Wedge a slice of garlic into each piercing. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Flip the chicken. Repeat on the other side, piercing the thigh and leg meat, and wedging in slices of garlic. Sprinkle with the remaining salt. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and squeeze the rest of the first half of the lemon on top of the chicken. Cut a piece of foil so that it fits around the chicken, and place it on top like a hat.

Bake the chicken for about 45 minutes, basting occasionally with its juices, until the chicken is cooked through–you’ll know it’s cooked when the juices run clear. It may take longer than this, depending on the size of your chicken, but you’ll just have to check. You’ll also have to check on the potatoes–if they’re not close to done, cook a bit longer before proceeding to the next step.

Take the chicken out of the oven. Toss the potatoes and remove the foil hat. Turn the chicken over so it’s breast-side up and squeeze the second half of the lemon over it. Drizzle on a little more olive oil. Raise the heat to 425°F and cook for about 10-15 more minutes, until the skin browns a bit and the potatoes are done.

Remove and let rest about 5 minutes before carving up the chicken and plating each portion with a generous serving of potatoes.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Margie

    Mmmm, I may just try this the next time I get a whole chicken. I’ve been doing the spatchcock method. I’m salivating over here and that’s a good thing. 😉

  • Christine

    I’m a little confused by the foil hat. Should it cover the whole pan? Or just the chicken? Is it like tenting it over the chicken?

    • BGSK

      It should just cover the chicken so you keep the moisture in as it cooks.Make sense?

  • This Mid 30s Life

    Tonight I ate the biggest dinner known to mankind and those photos have still managed to make me hungry.

    When will I learn that I can’t look at photos of good food without inhaling contents of my pantry? When? When??

  • Alison

    I have to agree about cooking a whole chicken breast side down. I did it once by accident (was in a rush and not really paying attention when I was getting the chicken ready and in the pan) and it was the most amazing chicken ever so have been doing it ever since to create the most delicious, moist breast meat. You do sacrifice crispy skin, but I’m fine with that. This recipe sounds delicious so I’ll have to give it a try.

  • T Ghias M

    I wonder if I can try this recipe with a turkey.

  • Pontellini_

    This sounds amazing. It sure made me hungry. Feel free to checkout my blog if youd like, and do comment :). Thanks

  • Alex

    I’m a pioneer! But seriously, dearest blog readers, when done right, the potatoes are amazing. The best ever. Awe-inspiring. There won’t be leftovers, I promise.

    I have fond memories of my dad making Greek-style chicken and potatoes, which my friend Emily and I reproduced in college. Even now when I hang out with Emily, she’ll still make roasted chicken and potatoes.

  • Jeanne

    I LOOOVEE Your Blog :)

  • Emily

    YES, this chicken is the best thing ever! Alex taught me to make it in college, and it is a regular in our house still. And the potatoes – OMfuckingG! They are incredible. To be honest, I make the chicken just so I can eat the potatoes. Btw, I don’t tent, flip, or baste my chicken (but I do roast it upside down) and it turns out fine – although maybe it would be be even better if I did! Also, instead of inserting slivers of garlic into the breast, I mince some garlic and fresh rosemary and put it between the skin and the breast meat.

    Alas, I have no carving wisdom to share. I also hack at it and generally make a giant mess.

  • Lizthechef

    This chicken looks terrific – I need to switch sometimes from thyme to oregano!

  • Anya Floris Stevenson

    Yum! Seriously.
    Roasted chicken is a definite staple at our house. (can an entire bird be considered a staple??)

    Speaking of what looks like an absolutely delicious ‘1-pot’ meal, I have a dilemma!

    My husband and I are moving from our 2 bedroom house in Florida, to a studio apartment in Chicago – we constantly struggle to keep our kitchen orderly and it seems like we are always always always doing dishes! We are planning to MAJORLY downsize our array of pots, pans, and little-gadgets-that-only-serve-one-purpose. What suggestions do you have when trying to avoid a huge, constant mess in a teeny-tiny kitchen while still being able to cook amazing food?

    Thanks so much – the blog is fantastic!


  • Virginia Lee

    Sounds yummy. A wonderful dish and easy too.

  • Rachael Ray Magazine

    This looks like a great “meat and potatoes” kindda of meal. I haven’t cooked a whole chicken like this, but I might give it a shot.

  • asdfggirl

    This looks fantastic…I just went to the store to pick up a chicken so that I can make this tonight.

    Quick question…I think the recipe is missing some of the information about the lemon. I can only see what you do with the second half of the lemon, after you flip over the chicken after roasting it partially. What do you do with the first half? Put it on the potatoes? On the other side of the chicken? Stuff it into the chicken? Thanks so much!

  • Rachael Kerster Hodyno

    Where/when does the first half of the lemon get used?

  • BGSK


  • The Suzzzz

    This sounds great, I may have to make this the next time I have a guest coming for dinner. I love a good roasted chicken and I agree that the breast down is the best way to keep the white meat juicy. But you don’t have to sacrifice crispy skin for it. I roast the chicken upside down for most of the cooking time and about 10-15min before it’s done I pull it out, flip the bird breast side up and give it a quick light brushing of melted butter and put it back in the oven uncovered and turn the heat up. It crisps up the skin but leaves the meat moist.

    • BGSK

      I’ll definitely try this next time. Thanks for commenting!

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