real life test kitchen: melissa clark’s roasted chicken with chickpeas

Among my many obsessions are great cookbooks. If a cookbook is truly lovely, I can read it like a novel – cover to cover, ogling every photo and fantasizing about the event for which I’d make every recipe.

I’ve clearly been living under some sort of rock, as I didn’t know much about Melissa Clark before now, other than that she’s the food writer for the New York Times. But from the moment I cracked the spine of her latest book, Cook This Now, I was a devoted follower. Organized by month, Clark walks you through what’s in season and great to cook with every month of the year, so you can adhere to her strict localvore attitude or mix-and-match recipes throughout the year.

As mouth-watering as every recipe appeared, I had to give things a try before I committed to our new love. So, I tested her recipe for Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas. Friends…all I can say is that roasting chickpeas and lemons underneath a chicken is pure culinary genius. They get all crunchy and delicious from the long cooking time, and the butter-slathered chicken drips down on the chickpeas as it cooks…the whole thing is complete genius.

For once in my life, I made this recipe exactly as written. And I wouldn’t change a thing…but I do have a few comments/helpful hints:

1. The gremolata is, as is often the case in my opinion, optional. The parsley is a nice touch, and adds a bit of freshness and color, but the lemons in the chickpeas are so bright that I couldn’t really taste the gremolata anyway. If you do want to go for the gremolata, I suggest zesting half of one of the lemons you’re already using (the half you’ll put inside the chicken), just to save yourself some work.

2. Butter is nearly impossibly to apply to wet chicken skin. So, before slathering, dry that chicken off thoroughly.

3. A roasting rack with handles is a nice effort saver here – I lifted the chicken out to add the chickpeas and stir everything around, and it made my life much easier than trying to maneuver around the bird.

4. Baby carrots would work every bit as well as larger carrots here, and would be a great shortcut. Also, dried thyme works out just fine in the chicken cavity if you don’t want to buy fresh.

Other than that, follow Clark’s directions to the letter, and you’ll have a seriously stunning dinner on your hands. My husband, carnivorus maximus, threatened to eat the entire bowl of chickpeas and lemons by himself.

Melissa Clark’s Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas & Gremolata

For the Chicken:
2 lemons
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch rounds

For the Gremolata:
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Quarter the lemons lengthwise and remove and discard any seeds. Thinly slice six of the lemon quarters crosswise (you will get little triangles) and in a bowl, toss them with the chickpeas, oil, 1/2 tablespoon (which equals 1 1/2 teaspoons if you don’t have a 1/2 tablespoons measure) of the garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Season the inside of the chicken cavity with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fill the cavity with remaining wedges of lemon and thyme sprigs. Rub the outside of the chicken all over with the remaining 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Rub the butter all over the skin.

4. Scatter the carrots in the bottom of the largest roasting pan you have (use the one you use for your Thanksgiving turkey). Place a wire roasting rack over the carrots; arrange the chicken, breast-side-up, on the rack. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, stirring the carrots occasionally, for 30 minutes. Scatter the chickpea mixture into the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue to roast until the chicken’s thigh juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes longer. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before carving.

5. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a bowl. Spoon the carrot-chickpea mixture onto a platter; arrange the chicken on top. Sprinkle the gremolata over the dish and serve.

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