I didn’t know I needed a new roast chicken in my life when Helen Rosner, the New Yorker’s roving food correspondent and all-around fascinating person, posted on her Instagram a few weekends ago that she didn’t have her usual vegetables to put under her roast chicken so she was using cabbage instead. Yet the very next evening, so was I, plus twice since then, and likely one more time before this week is out and I have a hunch I will not be alone. Rosner won a James Beard award for an essay I still routinely quote from to my kids (“but chicken tenders have no terroir!” because we live in opposite land where they don’t like them but I do — but that’s a whole other blog entry) because it delights me so much. A year ago she nearly broke the internet when she said she likes to use a hairdryer to get the crispiest chicken skin. All I’m saying is that when Rosner talks about chicken, I find good reason to tune in.
Look, I really like cabbage. I was never tormented with it as a kid, so I love it with the abandon of someone who chooses it. I like it in salads. I like it pickled. I love it roasted. But even if you’re not me, even if you’re cabbage-hesitant, I think you will find cabbage cooked slowly in salty buttery chicken drippings until charred at the edges and caramelized throughout — the cause of fighting at dinner over who got the best pieces of cabbage (!) — to be best thing to eat with roast chicken since potatoes.
This recipe has five ingredients and two are salt and pepper, which, like, doesn’t even count in ingredient-counting parlance. The rest — a chicken, cabbage, and butter — are made for a time like this, when many grocery stores may be understocked, budgets may be slashed and stretched, and we try to figure out how to do less with more, all while craving deeply cozy and rewarding meals. I nominate this.
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Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Cabbage
- 1 large head (2 1/2 pounds) green cabbage
- Splash of oil, any kind
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 whole chicken (shown here is 3 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- A lemon, if you wish, for serving (we never used ours)
- Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. Halve your cabbage and slice each half into 1 to 1.5-inch thick slabs. Very thinly coat the bottom of a 12-inch ovensafe skillet* or an equivalent roasting pan with oil, just to keep the cabbage from sticking before juices trickle down. Arrange cabbage slices in the pan as if you were making a mosaic, cutting pieces down as needed to get them to fit tightly. Season cabbage with salt and pepper. Pat your chicken dry and rub or brush it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Generously salt and pepper the chicken all over (I use a full tablespoon of Diamond kosher salt on my 3-pound bird; use half of another brand). Place chicken breast side-up over the cabbage and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, spooning the bird and cabbage around it with butter a few times throughout. Chicken is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 155 degrees, or 165 degrees for the thigh. If your chicken is much larger and you find it’s getting too dark for your tastes, reduce the heat to 425.
- I swear by this frying pan (I’ve had mine for 16 years and plan to keep it forever), this thermometer, and this spatula.
Lift the chicken off the cabbage and set on a plate (or warmed tray) to rest. Flip each section of cabbage over carefully in the pan, nestling them back in, and return the pan to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 450 degrees, until the edges are very dark brown. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
Cut chicken into pieces and serve with the cabbage, finishing everything with lemon if you wish.
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