There’s always the fear that someday the house will grow tired of roast chicken. Without warning or real justification, there will be a great household exodus that even the dog participates in. All spurred by the one question: chicken, again? The Romertoph Clay Baker renders this question obsolete. For those unfamiliar, a Romertoph is a clay pot that’s worthy of many meals. It cooks faster, more efficiently and without aid of butter or oil. Of course I still add butter but shh. The pot retains all of the meat’s juices. I grew up with my mother using clay pots. They are not expensive and last forever providing that you take care of them (see preparations below). Everything clay pots cook are tender, flavorful and moist. They’re also very beautiful to present.
Getting into the habit of roasting a chicken once a week also ensures great homemade chicken stock. As soon as I carve the chicken, I remove the carcass and simmer it with onions, celery and carrots for a couple of hours. Not only do I save money on buying chicken stock, I make an even better soup. If I don’t make a soup the same week as the roast chicken, I freeze the stock for later use.
It’s a good idea to have two clay pots: one that accommodates two chickens or one Thanksgiving Turkey and one that snuggly fits one chicken and its trimmings. For the past three years, I’ve roasted my Thanksgiving Turkey in a clay pot. Not only do I save time on basting (which you do NOT have to do with a clay pot), the meat cooks faster. The turkey is also never dry. This year was the first time I brined my turkey in apple cider and spices. Everything was infused with apple. Brining has now joined my home’s tradition of cooking in a clay pot for Thanksgiving.
I like to vary what roast chickens I make every week. Lately, I’ve liked using The Barefoot Contessa‘s “Perfect Roast Chicken.” I like stuffing the chicken with a whole lemon, thyme and head of garlic. I also tie the legs together. If you don’t have kitchen string, you can use unwaxed dental floss. Along with kitchen string, it’s also good to have on hand balsamic glaze. I love drizzling the glaze over the top. Presentation is half the fun!
Clay Pot Roast Chicken
1 3-4 Pound Whole Chicken (preferably humanely raised!)
1 Garlic Clove
1 Bunch Fresh Thyme or Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Butter (optional)
3-4 Large Carrots, peeled and left Whole
1 onion, roughly sliced
1 bunch brussels sprout
2 handfuls fingerlings potatoes
Note: You can add whatever vegetables you want to this. My only stress is that you use some whole carrots! The carrots come out so tender and richly colored that they’re both wonderful to eat and beautiful to present.
Preparing the clay pot:
- Do not preheat the oven! This is very important. If you place a clay pot in a hot oven, you risk cracking it.
- Soak the lid and bottom in a sink full of cold water for 15-20 minutes. You can soak the pot while you cut vegetables, wash and prepare chicken. Or you could just drink a glass of wine on the couch. Your call.
- Once your clay pot is prepared, create a carrot bed on the bottom of the pot. You can also use celery for this. Arrange some of the other vegetables on top of the carrots.
- Wash and pat dry your chicken. Rub a tablespoon of butter all over its skin (optional). Stuff the cavity with two lemon halves, a bunch of rosemary or thyme and a whole head of garlic. Tie the legs together. Salt and pepper.
- Place chicken on top of vegetables. You can also arrange some of the vegetables around the chicken. However, you do not want any vegetables on TOP of the chicken.
- Put lid on and place in a COLD oven.
- Raise temperature to 250 and wait 10 minutes.
- Raise temperature to 300 and wait another 10 minutes. Repeat with 350 and then finally end on 425.
- Cook for an hour and 15 minutes.
- Serve in clay pot (rustic!) or arrange on platter with fixings and gravy, if you desire.
- Remember to make a stock! This is easily done while the dishes are being done or they’re in the dishwasher.