The Little Black Dress

A good roast chicken is like that little black dress in your closet-it can take you anywhere and it is always appropriate.  You can dress it up or down and almost everybody loves it.  A roast chicken’s moist, succulent, meat and crispy, brown, skin are the definition of comfort food.  It is probably the least controversial dish you can make-absolutely perfect for a Sunday supper with your in-laws, or your “smile and wave” neighbors; yet, just as fabulous for your own cozy family or best friends. 

And, the beauty of a roast chicken is that it is a very easy dish to make.   You throw it in the oven, go about your life and return 1 ¼ hours later to declare victory.  At least, it’s supposed to work that way.  More often than not, the chicken seems to get the better of us…coming out dry and lackluster.  In fact, a roast chicken is seemingly so easy that I find it often does not get the attention or respect it deserves in the kitchen.  Well, no more!  Here is a foolproof way to get to your roast chicken paradise!

Here’s what you’ll need:

A roasting chicken-3-4 lbs, preferably free-range, organic.  I happen to like Bell & Evans.

1-2 lemons, quartered

4 garlic cloves, peeled

½ small onion, cut into 2 pieces

1” piece of ginger root, peeled

Fresh rosemary stalks, 3” or so in length

Olive oil

Salt-preferably sea salt


1.  Rinse your chicken-including the cavity with cold water.  Pat it dry. If you have time-and remember-let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so before baking. If not, no worries.

 2.  Preheat oven to 400.  If you have an oven that allows you to use a “convection” or “convection roast” setting, use it-but plain old bake works too.

 3.  Stuff the cavity with the lemons, onion, garlic and ginger root making sure that the lemons are distributed throughout the cavity.

 4.  Take your finger and gently run it between the skin and the meat of the chicken breast, creating a pocket. Take a piece of fresh rosemary and place it in the pocket between the skin and the meat.

 5.  Place the chicken on the rack of a roasting pan-or broiling pan- so that the juices drain during cooking. 

 6. Pour about 2 T olive oil on the top of your chicken and rub the olive oil all over the skin of the chicken. 

7.  Salt and pepper the bird.

 Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 1-1 ¼ hours, depending on size and weight of chicken.  Take the chicken out and let rest uncovered for 5-10 minutes before carving.



  1. mary
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Can you tell us how to carve the bird so it doesn’t look like an accident victim by the time I take it to the table?

  2. rose aiello olshan
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So entertaining and informative! Caroline, I’ll tune in soon

  3. aunt fred
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    Having enjoyed so many of your wonderful home cooking events frequently served by you in the little black dress cannot wait to keep a few of these shared secrets as a back up but hope you will save some for special occasions and special events….Love you and your marvellous enthusiasm the smells are beginning to come through the email..

  4. Posted January 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nice blog. I can’t wait for the movie with you and Meryl. Anyway, I make my roast chicken in a slightly unorthodox way. I split the whole thing right down the middle and then lay it breast side down on onions and scallions or herbs or whatever. Sometimes I even remove the rib bones. It cooks faster, and browns better…at least I think it does. When it’s done I scrape up all the gunk on the bottom, add some chicken broth and Wondra ( God I love Wondra) to make a very light gravy/sauce. Carve the boid, put the pieces back into the pan, and voila! A family favorite.

  5. Lili
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink | Reply


    Thanks for your entertaining and helpful blog. I simply love your description of roast chicken as the little black dress of a chef’s wardrobe! The addition of ginger root and garlic to my roast chicken recipe will add kick to a dinner that I love so much I serve it to my family regularly. I hope as the weather warms, you will teach us how to make your fabulous grilled chicken – crispy on the outside, yet so divinely succulent. Thanks for inspiring me to more adventures in my kitchen.

  6. Charlotte
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The Little Black Dress is a PREFECT description of roast chicken. Good for anytime,any where, any dinner and it tastes great!

  7. Sarah
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Caroline. You are a terrific writer! I have enjoyed your column in the “newspaper,” and have now subscribed. Keep up the good work! It hasn’t occurred to me to add ginger to the roast chicken. Am going to try that now!

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