Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
I love roast chicken. It’s so easy to adapt to any season and occasion. Spatchcocking the chicken before roasting makes it even more versatile by reducing the cooking time to well under an hour—just the right amount of time to also roast a selection of seasonal vegetables. This makes it easy to get an entire dinner out in one pan.
All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a pair of kitchen shears. Removing the backbone butterflies the chicken, allowing it to lay essentially flat so that it cooks more evenly than roasting it whole. It’s easier to do than you might think, but if you feel hesitant, you can ask your butcher to do it. Many grocery stores now also sell pre-spatchcocked, pre-packaged chickens.
I opted to use za’atar (aka zahatar), a Middle Eastern blend of herbs and spices that adds a lot of flavor in one easy move. Earthy and slightly warming, it’s ideal for this time of year.
An assortment of root vegetables completes the meal. I chose a selection of seasonal favorites and tried to keep the prep as quick and easy as possible. My mix included carrots that were moderately thin and small cipollini onions, both of which can be roasted whole, reducing chopping time.
Given the chilly temperatures this time of year, I was craving a red wine to pair with this dinner. To avoid overpowering the light meat, I selected reds with light to moderate tannins: a Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley and a medium-bodied Côtes du Rhône.
The Côtes du Rhône had a mix of red berry and blackberry notes, with a hint of smokiness, black pepper accents and lots of herbal touches. The Pinot Noir showed bright red fruit, with a refreshing beam of acidity and details of spice. Both wines worked really well with the chicken, so the selection came down to how each paired with the vegetables.
With certain bites, the Côtes du Rhône soared; the herbal notes in the wine resonated beautifully with the za’atar spice blend. However, the wine soured just a bit against the sweeter vegetables in the mix. This is a great match if your vegetable selection tends toward the savory side.
Though the Pinot Noir had savory touches, it was more fruit-forward, which worked with all of the vegetables, making it the more consistent match across the board.
Za’atar Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
Pair with a red with moderate tannins such as Oregon Trails Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015 (88 points, $20).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 50 minutes, plus 5 to 10 minutes resting time
Total time: 55 to 70 minutes
Approximate food costs: $26
- One 4 1/2 pound chicken
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons za’atar
- 6 to 8 thyme sprigs
- 8 slim carrots
- 8 cipollini onions
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 medium turnips, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice or white wine)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Lay the cleaned chicken, with innards removed, down on a cutting board with the legs pointing toward you and the breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over, breast-side up, and open it up so that it lies flat. Press hard on the center of the breast to crack the sternum and help flatten the chicken further.
2. Tuck the pieces of butter under the skin of the chicken, distributing as evenly as possible. Sprinkle half the za’atar, salt and a generous pinch of pepper on the skin of the chicken, then rub to distribute well. Tuck a few of the thyme sprigs beneath the skin of the chicken as well.
3. Lightly grease a roasting pan. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer in the roasting pan. Drizzle the vegetables with the apple cider vinegar and olive oil, then sprinkle on the remaining za’atar, plus a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat well, then place the remaining sprigs of thyme on top.
4. If you have a roasting rack, set it in the pan, then place the chicken on top, breast-side up. If not, simply lay the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast-side up. (You can add the backbone to roast with the rest of the chicken and vegetables, or discard as desired.) Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165° F and the skin of the chicken and the vegetables are lightly browned. Halfway through cooking, toss the vegetables and add an additional splash of apple cider vinegar if needed. If parts of the chicken are beginning to brown faster than the rest, tent lightly with foil or parchment paper.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. If the vegetables need additional browning, continue cooking them in the oven while the chicken rests. Toss the vegetables in the chicken drippings before placing them on a platter, then arrange the chicken on top. (You can carve the chicken in advance, or serve whole for presentation and carve at the table.) Serve any additional chicken jus on the side. Serves 4.