Roast chicken is supposed to be a simple dish, but why do most recipes call for complicated trussing techniques and for rotating the bird? I needed a set-it-and-forget-it method, and I have finally found one that comes out rich in flavor with juicy meat and perfectly crispy potatoes. If you have time, salt the bird generously outside and inside and let sit in the fridge for an hour or overnight.
1 3½–4-pound whole chicken
Kosher salt and black pepper
1½ pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed, thinly sliced crosswise
Unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Olive oil, (I like California Olive Ranch EVOO)
Optional: dry rub, head of garlic, lemon
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt the inside and outside of the chicken. Place in the fridge uncovered for an hour an and up to 24 hours earlier. I usually do this in the morning before I leave for work.
Preheat and prep potatoes
Place a rack in upper third of oven and set a 12" cast-iron skillet on the rack. Preheat oven to 425°.
Toss the potatoes with melted butter, salt, and fresh thyme leaves. I slice the potatoes with a mandolin and then lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet. I brush melted butter over the tops of all the potatoes and sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh thyme. This step takes more time than tossing the potatoes in a bowl, but I think this method evenly coats the potato slices.
Once the oven reaches temperature, pat chicken dry with a paper towel, rub with butter or oil, and sprinkle with a dry rub if you are using.
Totally optional, stuff the cavity with fresh herbs like thyme and a lemon sliced in half, and a head of garlic sliced lengthwise. These aromatics will give a lot of flavor to the chicken meat just by cooking inside the bird.
Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Drizzle a little bit of oil into the hot skillet to keep the chicken from sticking and tearing the skin.
Place chicken in the center of skillet with breast meat facing up and arrange potatoes all around. Roast until potatoes are golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 155°, 50–60 minutes (temperature will climb to 165° as chicken rests). Let chicken rest in skillet at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board and carve. Serve with deliciously crispy potatoes.