Perfect Roast Chicken


Roast chicken is an ultimate comfort food, but also easy to prepare and affordable. It sometimes gets a bad rap for being bland or dried out. A perfectly roast chicken could never be described this way so if that's how you feel - you're doing it wrong.

I roast a chicken almost every Sunday night to use throughout week. Over time, I've come up with a rather fail proof method. My secret? Don't truss your chicken.

Ignore those fancy recipes and chefs who tell you to tie the chicken up for even cooking. It's just not true. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but when you tie the legs in close to the body, all you are doing is restricting airflow around the legs - the dark meat that takes longer to cook - which then increases the gap in cooking time between the light and dark meat. When you truss, you back yourself into a corner. You're always going to have either undercooked legs or overcooked breasts.

Let yourself be lazy for once, place the chicken on the roasting tray and let it be. 


The other tip I can offer which is more common in practice, is to start at a high temperature to help crisp the skin. After 20 minutes, I drop the temperature 100 degrees to finish cooking. 

When I'm roasting chicken just to have protein on hand for recipes throughout the week, I let the chicken rest until it's cool enough to handle and then I remove the skin. I place the pieces of skin back on the roasting tray, sprinkle them liberally with salt and return to the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown. 

Present most men with a plate of salty, crunchy chicken skin and they'll love you forever.

Not into skin? Not to worry. This recipe is delicious even without that last, optional step. 

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 4-pound chicken

1 tbsp ghee from pasture-raised cows

Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Let it come to room temperature.  

Place the chicken on a parchment-lined roasting tray breast-side up. Spread the ghee all over the skin. Sprinkle liberally with salt (use more than you think you should). 

Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. after 20 minutes, rotate the chicken and drop the temperature to 350. Continue roasting for 25 additional minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. If you're breaking down the chicken and saving the meat for later in the week, let it rest until cool enough to handle.

Optional: Once the chicken has cooled slightly, remove the skin. Place the pieces of skin back on the roasting tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and return to the oven for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Cheat's Duck Confit

I may be trained in classic French technique and let me be clear, I put a high value on my culinary education, but I love a good shortcut in the kitchen.

Between my day job, this job and the many commitments I have outside of work, it's hard to find time for some of my favorite cooking projects - cheese making, preparing stock from scratch or something like duck confit.

This past December we ordered two ducks for Christmas dinner. I roasted one whole and then decided to see how many different ways I could prepare the second. I first broke it down into legs and breasts. I then collected as much of the remaining skin as I could and rendered it. That left me with about 1 1/2 cups of glorious duck fat (aka cook's gold) and some delicious duck cracklings for the masses to munch on while I prepped the rest. I knew I was going to sear the duck breasts on the stovetop, but what was I to do with the duck legs? I had neither the time nor the quantity of duck fat necessary to complete the process for duck confit, but how could you do anything but when prepping duck for a special Christmas dinner?

Enter Cheat's Duck Confit.

It turns out it is possible to get similar results with neither the time nor the precious resource (duck fat) commitment, though it is helpful to have a bit of duck fat to get you starter. If you are a normal human being and don't spend your days rendering duck fat, you can pick up a container at most grocery stores. I got mine at Bristol Farms for $12.99 and when you're finished with this recipe, you'll actually have more duck fat than when you began - not less.

The process is relatively simple for this easy duck confit recipe. Like traditional duck confit, you start by salting the legs, but unlike the traditional technique, you'll have a finished dish in just a few hours (with almost no hands on work). That's what I call a shortcut.

Cheat's Duck Confit

Serves 2 (though easily doubled or tripled) 

2 duck legs

1/4 - 1/2 cup duck fat

Kosher salt

A few sprigs of thyme

Prick the skin of the duck legs all over with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle the legs liberally with salt - use more than you think you should. Let the legs sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Select a baking dish just large enough to fit the duck legs when nestled closely together. Slick the bottom with duck fat to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4-inch, depending on how much fat you have to spare. Place the duck legs in the dish and tuck in a few thyme sprigs. Place the dish in a cold oven and turn it on to 300. Cook for two hours and voila easy duck confit.

If the skin has not browned and crisped up the way you would like, raise the oven temperature and check every five to 10 minutes until you're happy with results. 

Remove the duck legs from the dish and serve as desired, reserving the rendered duck fat for later use.



Mmmm. Delicious meatballs. 

Meatballs mean comfort food, but they don't have to mean heavy and unhealthy. I've replaced the usual breadcrumbs with quinoa and the ground pork with leaner, more flavorful wild boar. Add in chopped nuts, golden raisins and herbs for a flavor punch that's good for you.

These are so easy to make and perfect for a crowd. They freeze well which means you can make a large batch in advance and keep them on hand for those times you need to throw together a quick meal with minimal effort. I make a huge batch each winter before we take a group of friends up to our cabin in June Lake. I let them defrost on the drive up and then I'm ready to feed a crowd of hungry travelers as soon as we arrive. Easy peasy.

I found wild boar in the freezer section of my local Bristol Farms, but it can also be ordered online here and here or here in bulk. My favorite serving suggestion is included in the recipe below.

Wild Boar Meatballs


1 lb ground wild boar

1/2 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/2 bunch of parsley, leaves removed and stems discarded

4 sprigs of mint, leaves removed and stems discarded

1 tsp kosher salt

Place all ingredients aside from wild boar in a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add the ground boar and stir gently until combined. Do not over mix.

Take a large spoonful of meat mixture and roll it between your hands to form a meatball. Repeat with remaining meat mixture to form around 14 meatballs.

Either freeze for later use or cook as desired.

Serving Suggestion:

Preheat oven to 350. Sear meatballs lightly and transfer to a baking dish. Top with 1 cup of Speedy Pomodoro and scatter chunks of feta or mozzarella around the dish. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Scatter chopped parsley over the meatballs and serve.