Now that I’ve been cooking for a while, I’ve created a little stable of what I call my “go-to” dishes — dishes that are easy but delicious, suitable for serving to a guest. What I mean by go-to dishes is one step above the grilled cheese you make for yourself at midnight on Wednesday or the scrambled eggs with tomato you eat Sunday morning. Go-to dishes are ones you know well, and you know won’t fail, or fail to impress.
This weekend, I was surprised by hosting duty for a dinner party. With 24 hours to plan, out came my go-to dish — Paprika-Cayenne Roast Chicken. It is easy, can almost entirely be prepared the night before, and it always wows people just a little because most people our age are intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole chicken.
Roasting a chicken is actually one of the easiest things in the world. You just have to make sure you leave yourself enough time (an hour to an hour and a half). This recipe is particularly good because the combination of spices elevates the whole concept of a roast chicken to something a little fancier, with no added effort on your part. Also, salting it the night before and leaving it uncovered in the fridge makes the skin extra crispy. This recipe is based on one I found on epicurious, modified by my laziness (I didn’t want to butterfly the chicken, or know what that means), inability to find the Spanish paprika the recipe called for, and my desire to compensate for the lost smokiness of the Spanish paprika.
I served this with some roasted root vegetables and a salad (both courtesy of Kevin). In the past I’ve served it with asparagus risotto, or with the herbed potatoes that are in the original epicurious recipe.
Do you have a go-to dish? If you do, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.
Paprika-Cayenne Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 5 lb.)
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
The night before, or early in the day:
1. Place chicken on large baking sheet (I use foil underneath). Separate the skin from the meat by sticking your fingers in between the two (the skin is only attached to the flesh in a few places, so break those and then there will be an accessible space between the two).
2. Insert thyme sprigs between the meat and the skin on the breast, thigh, and drumstick, if you can manage. I put about two sprigs on each drumstick/thigh and four or five in the breast.
3. Mix salt, paprika, and cayenne in a bowl. Sprinkle over chicken, spreading seasoning with your fingertips and coating both sides.
4. Let chicken sit, skin side up and uncovered, in the fridge until you are going to cook (hopefully at least 8 hours, if not overnight).
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Drizzle chicken with 2 Tbsp. olive oil or so.
3. Cook for about an hour (officially speaking, until a meat thermometer pressed into the thigh registers 175 degrees F). For a 5 lb. chicken, one hour should be fine.
4. Let rest 10 minutes, which (as I discussed with the steak) helps to seal in the juices.