It took me a little while to find my go-to roast chicken, but once I did, there was no going back. Those of you who have happened upon the recipe (page 287, Dinner: A Love Story) know why: It’s low on ingredients, forgiving if you miss a few of those ingredients, and doesn’t require changing oven temps or flipping the bird over and back again. It’s about as straightforward as they come, which is probably — no definitely — the reason why I always go back to it. Every now and then, when I’m about to brush the melted butter on top, I’ll think to myself I should try something new here, before thinking, Nah. If it ain’t broke...
Then again, I just wrote an entire book on busting out of a dinner rut. A cornerstone of the book’s philosophy? If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway. I’ve always found that introducing new things — new techniques, new ingredients — to my dinner routine as often as possible is the best way to keep things interesting. And when things stay interesting, I stay motivated. So I hunted around for some options and came up with just the slightest twist on my chicken, a salty, silky mirin glaze that stopped the conversation at the dinner table (always a good sign). It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough.
Soy and Mirin-Glazed Roast Chicken
Inspired by Sam Sifton’s mirin-glazed turkey, from his magnum opus Thanksgiving.
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
about a tablespoon of olive oil
1 whole roasting chicken (about 3-4 pounds), giblets removed from inside and patted completely dry
3-4 cloves of garlic, halved
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Turn off heat. Add onions and carrots to a deep roasting dish and toss with olive oil. Place the chicken on top and stuff with lemon and garlic (no need to be artful about this). Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen string, then brush the chicken all over with about a tablespoon of the melted butter. (Do not discard the butter that remains in the saucepan; you should have about 3 tablespoons left.) Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken.
Roast chicken for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, add soy sauce and mirin to the melted butter. Turn heat to medium-low and stir until everything combines. Remove from heat and let rest on stovetop.
After 45 minutes, generously brush chicken with mirin glaze. Roast another 20 minutes. Glaze again. Roast another 10 until chicken is cooked through and the legs wiggle easily. (The general rule for making sure a chicken is done is to roast about 18-20 minutes per pound.) Slice and serve. The chicken is moist enough to stand on its own, but if you want gravy, continue with instructions below.
A Note on Gravy: So until fairly recently, gravy-making was a little terrifying to me — my knowledge of the process was limited to watching my mom mix a Knorr powder into the pan juices on Thanksgiving. I don’t know what psychological switch flipped, but for the past half dozen roast chickens, I’ve taken the initiative to experiment a little. I am not very close to being able to give you exact instructions yet, but I will say that it involves whatever juice is left from your chicken, some butter, and a little bit of flour. Here’s the rough idea:
1) Remove chicken from roasting dish.
2) Heat roasting dish over medium heat (or transfer to a saucepan if your roasting pan is not stovetop ready) and add a drizzle of chicken broth so it looks sort of like this:
3) Then scrape all those bits with a wooden spoon until everything is cleaned off the bottom of the pan. (Those burnt onions? They’re your friends.)
4) Strain the whole thing over a bowl or a heatproof Pyrex measuring cup as shown above. Discard strainer contents. Let juice in pyrex sit for a little while so the fat separates. Remove that fat with a spoon.
5) Add back to a small sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter (about) and a tablespoon of flour. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat. Add flour in small increments until it reaches what you consider desired gravy consistency. I like mine on the thinner, less gloppy end, but you might be different. Serve drizzled over chicken — and anything else on the plate.