Food & Wine (January 2016)
A new year, a new roast chicken recipe.
In selecting the first dish that we would make for 2016 here on The Bitten Word, Jonathan Waxman's iconic Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde and Roasted Lemons -- billed by Food & Wine as "The Roast Chicken That Changed America" -- quickly made it to the top of our list. It's not hard to sell us on a roast chicken, and if a chicken recipe can change America, we think it's more than good enough for la Bitten Word.
Plus, we've always loved Jonathan Waxman, recurring Top Chef guest and chef of Barbuto in NYC, Adele's in Nashville, and Jams, a NYC hotspot from the 1980s that has recently been revived. This chicken recipe, which originated at Jams, is currently on the menu at Barbuto and Adele's. In fact, back in February 2014, we were able to eat at Barbuto and we ordered the chicken, with its crisp skin and bright salsa verde. When we saw it pop up in Food & Wine, it was like seeing an old friend for the first time in years.
We were eager to see how this Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde and Roasted Lemons at home compares to the restaurant version.
Is this dish all about the chicken or the salsa verde? We've eaten it twice now, and we're still not sure. Both are excellent.
The chicken preparation isn't out of the ordinary: You remove the backbone of a whole chicken, and then cut the bird in half lengthwise, rub it with salt and pepper, and roast it on a rack in the oven. That's it, and 40 minutes later you have a beautifully cooked chicken with crisp, golden skin. It's among the best roast chickens we've ever made.
But the whole thing comes to life with the salsa verde, which is a combination of six herbs (sage, chives, cilantro, basil, parsley AND arugula), garlic, capers and anchovies. With so many flavorful ingredients packed in, the sauce is packed with herby flavor and the great sharp tastes of the capers and anchovies.
If we have any quibble with this dish, it's that this salsa verde contains a lot of ingredients that we dislike buying at the store -- sage, chives, parsley, basil -- because most of the year we have these in abundance in the backyard. Really, it's quite depressing to buy basil in January, in those sad plastic sleeves, the plant barely hanging on to any semblance of life. That aside, the salsa verde will knock your socks off.
Oh, so how did this dish "change America," you're wondering? It's a reference to how Jams caused New York City chefs -- and, later, everyone else -- to rethink the kind of cuisine they were serving. You can read all about it in Food & Wine's profile of the restaurant.
Jonathan Waxman's roast chicken may have changed America. We think it will also change the way you think about roast chicken.
Active time: 40 mins | Total time: 1 hour
One whole 4-pound chicken, backbone removed, chicken halved lengthwise
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, halved crosswise
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped arugula
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped tarragon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives
1/4 cup coarsely chopped sage
Preheat the oven to 450°. Arrange the chicken skin side up on a rack set over a baking sheet. Rub with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place the lemons cut side down on the rack. Roast the chicken for about 40 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mortar or blender, mash the capers with the anchovies and garlic until a paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil. Stir in the herbs; season with salt.
Carve the chicken; arrange on a platter with the lemons. Serve with the salsa verde.
Make Ahead: The salsa verde can be refrigerated overnight; serve at room temperature.