I was flipping through the weekend newspaper a few months back when I passed over an interview with Jeni Britton Bauer. I probably would've continued flipping pages, but there was an inset recipe for hot fudge sauce that made me pause. Putting two and two together, I realized this was Jeni of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.
I've tried Jeni's ice cream twice before--both times visiting Maria when she lived in Columbus, Ohio. (The company was founded there in 2002.) I think I tried a chocolate flavor the first time, and something bergamot the second. I remember both experiences being intense in the flavor department, and the ice cream itself was thick and creamy and smooth.
But this post isn't about ice cream. In the interview, Jeni shares a method she uses for roast chicken in a very off-the-cuff fashion. It was a strange method, involving canned potatoes. (Canned potatoes?) I was intrigued.
Here's what she says:
When I entertain, I like to: make a simple meal, like roast chicken, potatoes and salad. I love the potatoes you can buy at the farmers market in France that have been sitting under the rotisserie chicken all morning. One day I saw how they do them, and it has become my technique at home. I heat a cast iron pan in the oven first, then roast the heavily salted and peppered chicken at 425 degrees for one hour. Then I remove it and let it rest uncovered on a plate. Then I pour a large can--yes, can--of drained whole potatoes into the fat in the pan and put it back in the oven for about 20 minutes. I like to tell everyone I used a can of potatoes, a technique learned in a French farmers market. Everyone always loves them. Then a salad of greens, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. (quoted from "Cool Kitchen Tips from America's Ice Cream Queen" in WSJ)
With the above in hand, I went out to the grocery store and picked up a whole roasting chicken, some fresh greens, and...canned potatoes. I never have heard of these before, let alone tried them, and the only option I could find at my grocery store was Del Monte Fresh Cut Whole New Potatoes with Kosher Salt. So that's what I used.
While the cast iron skillet was preheating to 425 in the oven, I removed the chicken's packaging and sprinkled it liberally with kosher salt and pepper.
That chicken went right into the preheated skillet and cooked for a solid hour. When the timer rang, out it came, and in went the cans of drained potatoes. I gave them a good stir in the drippings and popped them in to oven for 20 minutes. They were still quite pale and, dare I say it? Sickly looking. I popped them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. And then another 5. I'm not sure if they are supposed to take on color, but I didn't really know what I was looking for to indicate they were done. It took a full 15-20 minutes longer for them to begin to take on any color, and even then, they tasted so...underwhelming. And the texture was quite strange. (About what you would imagine a canned potato to feel like.)
The verdict? Chicken, yay - Potatoes, nay
The method of roasting a chicken? Fantastic. Seriously, the best method I've come across so far. I love how no-fuss it is in preparation. I love how quickly the chicken roasts -- you can get a chicken dinner on the table in 1.5 hours flat. Perhaps this has to do with the pre-heated skillet? I don't know, but the chicken came out perfectly done (crisp salty skin, fully cooked meat, yet still juicy) both times I've tried. Yes, both times, because here's the thing: the canned potatoes were terribly disappointing. Maybe it was the brand I tried, but canned potatoes have the absolute weirdest texture that no amount of roasting seemed to fix.
Here's the good news
Determined to make this recipe a winner for my arsenal, I recently picked up a bag of mixed young potatoes in the produce section to substitute for the canned potatoes. Guess what? They cook in the same amount of time (~20 minutes) and taste a gazillion times more delicious. Hooray!
Jeni's Roast Chicken with mixed New Potatoes
whole roaster chicken
fresh ground pepper
bag of mixed new potatoes, rinsed
Place a cast iron skillet in the middle rack and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
While the oven preheats, remove the chicken from packaging, rinse with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in preheated skillet and roast for 1 hour.
When the chicken is done, pull it out of the oven and let it rest on a plate. Place the potatoes in the skillet, stir them around in the drippings, and return to oven for 20 minutes.
Prepare your veggie (a fresh salad or sautéed shaved Brussels Spouts are good options). Carve the chicken. Remove the potatoes from the oven and serve immediately. Enjoy!