And it was fun too! The end result was a nicely crisped chicken, with absolutely spectacular roasted potatoes and carrots (yeah, I caved and added something healthy). I cleverly used duck fat instead of oil, because I have a pint of the stuff from my Thanksgiving multiple-duck-roasting™. Duck fat has a fairly high smoke point, and it adds a bit of flavor. And I think that the cast iron really helped the process; it is so big and heavy that the temperature barely dropped when I put the chicken into the pan.
I dumped some carrots, lemon, celery and onion into the cavity of a 4-pound chicken and then tied the legs together. I couldn’t be bothered with stitching the cavity closed, so I just tucked the skin under the legs and hoped that the stuffing wouldn’t fall out. And don’t forget my creeping pomposity. I used that weird Hawaiian pink sea salt, both in the cavity and on the exterior. I also sprinkled some fresh thyme around, mostly as an afterthought. I used small Yukon Gold potatoes that I had peeled and soaked in cold water for a few hours. I was hoping that the water would leech out some of the starch and help crisp the potatoes, and it seemed to work. The potatoes were too big left whole, so I quartered them, which worked out to be the perfect size. I also peeled and split some carrots and cut them into two-inch pieces. I soaked them in cold water as well, but also added some brown sugar and a bit of salt. Why? I have no idea. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The pan was just smoking when I put the chicken in, and the sound of the skin hitting the hot duck fat was lovely. I made sure that the chicken was nice and dry before I dropped it in; I hate getting splattered with hot fat. It browned fairly quickly, maybe two or three minutes on each side. If I make this dish again (and I think I will) I will brown the chicken for a bit longer. As I browned the chicken I heated up a non-stick pan with a pat of butter and some canola oil. When it was hot I tossed in the potatoes and carrots. I wanted to season them (a bit of salt, pepper and thyme) and coat them with fat before I put them into the cast iron pan, mostly to minimize the mess; they filled the pan and it would have been difficult to toss them in the fat. When the chicken was nicely browned, I picked it out of the pan, tossed the potatoes and carrots in, slapped the chicken back into the pan on top of the other stuff, and put it into a 450°F oven for about an hour. I flipped the chicken after 50 minutes, mostly to crisp up the bottom. The potatoes and carrots didn’t stick at all; they just got nice and brown and crispy. The chicken was juicy, but the legs were a tad overdone. Nothing terrible, but the skin had begun to pull away from the ends.
This was enjoyable and amusing to cook, both because I had no idea what I was doing, and the technique was interesting. The best part was the potatoes and carrots. When I try this again I’ll have to spend more than three seconds contemplating the seasoning, but the chicken was worth the trouble.
P.S. I forgot that I deglazed the pan with the stuffing and some red wine (and butter, of course). I then scrunched it through a chinois and made a beautiful sauce. It even tasted good, but it didn’t really go well with the dish. Maybe white wine and lemon would have worked better.