Jeffrey Steingarten famously declares in It Must Have Been Something I Ate that every time he is bored, he roasts a chicken. Calculating that he gets bored approximately once a week, this translates into 52 roast chickens a year and more than one thousand since he began as food critic at Vogue. That’s a lot of chicken, but it’s also a lot of practice in the art of roasting. Now, Steingarten goes on to say that roasting a chicken in the oven is little more than baking it, and that real roasting can only be done on a spit over a flame, which is perhaps true, but in the absence of a spit and fire, I think oven-roasting (baking) can produce a perfectly delicious roast chicken, and would refer you to the recent post “How to Spatchcock a Chicken” for a quick step-by-step.
Indeed, to my mind, (and to disagree with Mr. Steingarten, for once) there is one distinct advantage to oven-roasting vs. spit-roasting, namely, drippings, and drippings, like the crumbles in the corner of a bag of chips (crisps), are where the flavor is at. These drippings, you see, can be made into one of the most sublime of all cooking by-products, the gravy.
So, after washing and patting dry my bird, I stuffed its cavity with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, thyme, and lemon, before giving it a good rub all over with olive oil and a healthy sprinkling of salt. I then placed said bird in a dutch oven (le creuset) and leaving the lid off, put it in a 420F oven for forty minutes. After forty minutes, and with the bird looking perfectly golden and crispy, I turned the heat down to more placid 350F and let it roast for another hour before removing it and letting it rest a while out of the oven.
Before carving it, I removed the bird from the pot and took out the stuffing from the cavity, then drained all the juices out of the cavity into the pot where they mixed with roasting juices. Adding the cavity stuffing to the juices, along with about a pint of tap water, I turned up the heat and scraped the burnt bits off the bottom of the pan. I let the liquid reduce by about a third, stirring occasionally and crushing some of the vegetables a bit with my wooden spoon.
Nicely brown and beautifully redolent of chicken, thyme, lemon and the sweetness of roasted carrots, I strained the gravy and then pushed the solids through a sieve to add some body and flavor back in to it. Seasoning only slightly with salt and fresh pepper, I was proud to have made an absolutely fantastic, honest-to-goodness chicken gravy without recourse to stock, bouillon cubes or thickeners like corn starch. It was a moment in which I realized that just by following my instincts I had recreated the kind of gravy you’d commonly find at a good English restaurant or pub, or indeed, a good country French restaurant.
It was really quite an ordinary dinner – roast chicken, dauphinoise potatoes and a warm asparagus salad with fennel and celery tops, but with this gravy it became extraordinary — exactly the kind of restorative elixir that my body needed. “They” say that chicken soup contains something that makes you better when you’re sick, and I am sure that this chicken gravy had some of that goodness in it too. It was freshly made, flavorful and, well, chicken-y in a way that only chicken can really taste like chicken, and it made me feel wholesome without resorting to wheat germ, lentils and colonic irrigation.
Another interesting by-product of this dinner was a rather toothsome recipe for a potato and fennel gratin that I’m also inordinately proud of, perhaps because I didn’t work from a recipe, perhaps because I’m an asshole. Anyway, here’s how to do it:
Potato & Fennel Gratin
- 2 large or 3 medium waxy potatoes (yukon gold are best here) peeled, but left whole
- 1 large fennel bulb with tops trimmed and reserved for fennel salad
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup milk
- 2-3oz low moisture mozzarella, sliced thinly
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Using a mandolin on the middle thickness setting, slice your potatoes and fennel.
- Lay out potatoes overlapping one another by about 3/4 slice (see photo below) in a layer in a baking dish.
- Then do the same thing with your fennel slices. This second layer will probably not be as neat as the first one, but that doesn’t really matter.
- Pour the milk over the vegetables but make sure milk does not cover them. Depending on the size of your dish, you may need a bit more or a bit less milk, but it should only come up to the bottom of the upper-most layer of vegetables.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover dish with foil and place in oven for about half an hour.
- After this time, remove from oven and lay your mozzarella slices on top. Do not add too much cheese – be a little sparing.
- Return to oven and allow to bake for another twenty minutes or so, until cheese begins to puff and brown.
- Remove and allow to cool a bit before serving (cutting is easier when vegetables and cheese have firmed up a little).
- Serve with roast chicken on a Sunday night and calm the weekly apprehension at your impending return to work.
Check out these other posts you may enjoy:
- BRAISED PORK CHOPS WITH LIME AND OLIVES
- ENSALADA DE CABRALES (Thin Sliced Apple and Cabrales Cheese Salad w/ Vinaigrette)
- AUTHENTIC THIN-CRUST PIZZA
- BLACK, RED OR PINTO BEANS WITH CHORIZO AND CUMIN
- VEAL KIDNEYS WITH MUSHROOMS AND COGNAC
- CREAMY LEMON PASTA
- LIDIA’S LAMB CHOPS (Lamb Chops with A Mustard Anchovy Sauce)
21 thoughts on “Chicken Gravy & Fennel and Potato Dauphinoise (A Gratin): The Cure for Sunday-Night Fear”
Nothing like a good homemade gravy. I dont wasate a part. I even bloi the neck and gizzards, etc for stock to add to the gravy. The gratin looks marvelous.
ok, so when are you starting your catering business? I heart chicken… no matter how it’s cooked.
Wow Jonny, this chicken looks amazing. The best way to eat chicken is roasted, right? I have probably eaten tens of thousands of chickens throughout my life. I just love the little fuckers. Hehe. And the potato and fennel gratin is just as gorgeous.
That entire dinner sounds delicious–the gravy, the gratin–I know what I wish I was having for dinner now. 😛
i love the word elixir.
that chicken is a hottie.
you’ve taken sunday roast to the next level 🙂 nice touch with the fennel! x
That Chicken looks like a dish that should be served in a 5 star restaurant. Just beautiful!
Interesting enough; we’ve made fennel the other night as well. I do like this combination of fennel with potatoes. Gorgeous! I feel like it’s a neglected vegetable, so pleased to come across this recipe of yours.
Amy, as for the other blog- that’s why I’m sharing it with two others-there’s no way I could do it all on my own. I’m even trying my best to BLOG LESS- giving me more time, to go around to respond to comments. It’s seriously hard work, to say the least. Especially, when food dishes keep piling up!
It might be ‘just’ roast chicken – but with that gravy and your attention to presentation, you’ve transformed it into something quite sublime!
I’m glad to hear you like my post on Avocados 🙂
I love your gratin recipe, I make sometimes something similar with turnip or potato gratin with nutmeg and onions, here are links if you want to take a look:
Have a nice day, Margot
Thanks for the comment. Courtney, you are so right about adding neck, feet, etc. into a gravy. adds SO much more!
joe: ok, you’re too kind. but, this dish would be PERFECT for caterers! you could reheat all of this and stack it up and it would be an awesome, delish dinner!
ben- you little fucker, you!! ha ha ha.
michelle: a TOTAL hottie – this chicken, i mean.
everyone else – thank you so much!! chuck – too, too kind!
it’s funny how we all have our version of the roast chicken… i do mine via judy rogers from zuni cafe. salt it for 2 days or so in the fridge, then hot and fast – using a small bird. and sometimes gravy – sometimes not. but man o man, yours sounds perfect.
and keller’s butter dijon version is pretty awesome too.
bottom line is – find a technique that works and then make em often because roasted chicken is where it’s at…
This chicken makes me hungry! looks delicious. Interesting, the other day I was “readin” one of my cookbooks and bookmarked a recipe for potato and fennel gratin to make later! It was very similar to yours. And now seeing yours reminded me of it. I am printing your recipe for my folder:) Thanks!
Your roast chicken looks very delicious, I am almost obsessed with roasting chickens! Fennel gratin is one of my faves too and you cannot beat some beautiful fresh asparagus.
Gravy is a beautiful thing. I think roast chicken is one of the ultimate comfort foods and gravy is one of the few things that could improve on something nearly perfect.
The poatoes look great. Roasted fennel is one of my favorite veggies.
We can never eat enough fennel bulbs! The warmer weather here is bringing them out like crazy! The gratin, the gravy, everything looks wonderful!
I must say, you guys make some of the best dishes in the blogosphere! Really, you guys do. The plating and photography has me hooked. You use lots of great ingredients and the results are complete, so fabulous! Are you guys gonna cater parties anytime soon?
Being an asshole is warranted when a gratin (and gravy) comes so naturally.
Looks far better than “ordinary” to me! 🙂 Looks delicious!
Oh I love a great roast chicken! This looks delicious.
Que bueno y que facil! I’ll follow your instructions for my next pollo!!! You have convinced me girl!!! And the potatoes combined with fennel is something I never tried but now that I saw it… I know I will enjoy 😀
It is amazing that you can make roast chicken an potatoes looks so scrumptious.