This is a tale of two chickens.
Both chickens are sweet and savory, both chickens spent some time in a 400° oven, and both chickens were devoured with relish. One chicken Keith really loved, and one chicken I just couldn’t stop eating. Truly. Nonstop eating. By me.
Keith’s chicken — roasted with grapes and shallots and rosemary and thyme — reminded me of something my mother made once or twice when I was growing up. That too was a chicken with grapes, and in my memory that chicken was mostly sweet and bathed in a honey-colored broth. Its grapes were not as deeply baked as Keith’s chicken, whose grapes were roasted until unctuous and almost jammy.
This chicken was meant to be made with thyme and thyme alone, but I had a little pinch bowl of minced rosemary leftover from another dinner, so I figured, Why not, and threw it in the mix too. I think Keith’s chicken was the better for it, especially since the evergreen-ness of the rosemary paired so well with both the shallots and the grapes.
Once last thing about those grapes: the burnt ones were best — crispy, crunchy, juicy and buttery-smooth.
My chicken, the chicken of the nonstop eating, was earthier than Keith’s and a bit sweeter, probably because of all of the butternut squash that got roasted alongside it. The red potatoes took on some of the sweetness as well, which was actually pretty awesome when you think about it — crispy-on-the-outside candy-coated carb wedges.
Something else that was actually pretty awesome about my chicken was that its recipe called for dried rubbed sage and minced garlic, and the fact that the recipe was leagues better when I subbed in a combination of fresh sage and thyme for the dried and a garlic paste for the minced. In the oven, all the flavors beneath the chicken’s skin came together in a rich and satisfying way. I normally find fresh sage to be a bit bitter and wood-ish; in my mind, it only pairs well with strong profiles that can really stand up to it. When roasted with the thyme and garlic paste, the sage became almost like a sauce under the skin.
But this isn’t a chicken competition; it’s all about preferences, mine and Keith’s. I suggest buying two birds and giving both recipes a whirl. That way, no one loses and everyone wins.
Chicken with Roasted Grapes + Shallots, from Bon Appétit
Makes four portions
1 ¼ pounds assorted seedless grapes, cut into small clusters
6 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme plus 6 large sprigs (I used a mixture of rosemary and thyme.)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 4-to 4 ½-pound chicken, excess fat removed from cavity
- Preheat oven to 400°. Gently toss grape clusters, shallots, chopped thyme, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl to coat. Rub chicken with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place thyme sprigs in cavity. Place chicken in large roasting pan; arrange grape mixture around chicken. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken thigh registers 165° and grapes are shriveled, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to platter; let rest 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, arrange grapes and shallots around chicken. Transfer pan juices to small pitcher; spoon fat from surface of juices and discard. Serve chicken with pan juices alongside.
Roast Chicken with Potatoes + Butternut Squash, from Cooking Light
Makes four portions
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided (I made a garlic paste instead.)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage (I used a mixture of fresh sage and thyme.)
1 3 ½-pound roasting chicken
12 ounces red potatoes, cut into wedges
1 ½ cups cubed peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400°. Combine 1 ½ tablespoons garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and sage in a small bowl. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Rub garlic mixture under loosened skin. Place chicken, breast side up, on rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Place rack in broiler pan.
- Combine potatoes, squash, butter, 1 ½ teaspoons garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Arrange vegetable mixture around chicken. Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165°. Let stand 10 minutes. Discard skin.