“Roast chicken is a real emotional thing for people,” says chef Andy Little. “One of my favorite things to eat at home is whole roast chicken.”
Little’s accessible recipe for a classic whole chicken—oven-roasted to crispy, golden goodness—goes on the plate with smashed potatoes and a kale salad dressed in a grilled-scallion vinaigrette that’s quick to prepare but feels restaurant-worthy with its combination of herbaceous, smoky and creamy elements.
At his restaurant, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning Josephine, in Nashville, Tenn., Little’s deep-fried take on whole roast chicken has become a show-stopping signature menu item. It falls somewhere between the Amish farm chicken of Little’s youth in central Pennsylvania and the fried hot chicken that proliferates in Music City. He says that the dish resulted from his thinking, “Well, I wonder what would happen if I just dropped that whole thing in the deep fryer.”
Josephine’s mash-up of Southern and Pennsylvania Dutch culinary traditions is not as quirky as it may seem. “The cuisine of the American South, especially the noncoastal American South, and the cuisine of central Pennsylvania are very similar,” Little explains. “Both of them celebrate their agrarian roots, so you’re going to find food that has jumped off of the farm and onto restaurant menus using the whole animal.” The subsistence cultures of Amish country and Appalachia, he observes, are about “being very frugal with the abundance that you have.”
At home, the humble roast chicken can sometimes prove finicky. Either the skin is well-burnished and crispy but the interior is unpleasantly dry, or the meat is tender but the skin offputtingly wiggly. Little suggests cutting yourself some slack and taking the long view. “If I make something once and it doesn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to, I’m going to try it again, and I’ll probably try it three or four, maybe five times,” he says. “Continue to get in the kitchen and cook, and if you’re dead set on, ‘I’m going to make this great roast chicken recipe,’ then persevere a little bit.”
After all, you gotta eat. “Thankfully, we’re supposed to eat three times a day,” Little says, “so that’s three opportunities—if you’re into chicken for breakfast.”
For example, if the meat isn’t done to your liking when cooked to the called-for 175° F, try following visual cues instead, cooking only until the juices run clear when a leg joint is pierced with a small knife. You might pursue an even crispier skin, rubbing the inside of the skin with butter or taking your blow-dryer to the outside. Maybe you’ll discover you’re a fan of trussing the bird with twine for even cooking, or maybe that’s not your thing.
If you want to get a little more ambitious, slice a couple lemons, heads of garlic and onions in half crosswise, then stuff a few into the chicken’s cavity and place the rest cut-side down in the roasting pan. Throw in a carrot or two if you like. The resulting pan juices will be even more richly nuanced, plus you’ll have additional veggies to serve alongside.
“Hopefully, I’m able to provide a great jumping-off point,” Little says. Ultimately, though, it’s all about finding your own perfect chicken.
For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Andy Little’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Roast Chicken With Beaujolais," in the Nov. 30, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated Beaujolais in our Wine Ratings Search.
1. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. In a large bowl, toss scallions with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook scallions, using tongs to turn, until soft and well-charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly.
2. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Coat the skin with olive oil and season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly with kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast-side up in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet and insert a probe thermometer between the leg and thigh joint. Transfer to the oven and roast until the thermometer reads 175° F, about 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a meat board. Tent loosely with foil. Let rest for about 15 minutes.
3. While the chicken is roasting, combine the mustard, egg yolk, vinegar and grilled scallions in a blender and blend on high until well-combined. Slowly stream in 2 cups olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Dry the kale thoroughly and dress with the grilled-scallion vinaigrette (you will have some left over). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and submerge in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once the potatoes have cooled, smash them flat with the side of a chef’s knife.
6. Coat a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the potatoes and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. When ready to serve, remove the twine from the chicken. Remove the legs, and separate each thigh from each drumstick. Cut along the inside of the breastbone on either side to remove the breast meat, and slice. Remove the wings. Serve with the kale salad and potatoes alongside. Serves 2 to 4.