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There are some foods that, when eaten together, are so perfectly suited for each other it becomes difficult to have one without longing for its mate.  Tomatoes and basil.  Garlic and olive oil.  Caramel and sea salt.  And, for me, potatoes and chicken fat.  Sure you can toss your potatoes with olive oil and roast them on their own, and they’ll be tender and crunchy and handsome next to the chicken on your plate.  But why do that when you can nestle them into the roasting pan, tucked snugly around the bird, and let them slowly soften and then crisp in their companion’s own lovely juices?

I like sturdy, creamy yukon golds for this dish, but feel free to use whatever potato you like best.  And buy the best quality chicken you can afford — those organic, free-roaming birds really do taste better.  If possible, buy the chicken a day or two in advance, unwrap it, salt it inside and out, re-wrap it, and store it in the fridge.  I’ve read several accounts to the contrary, but in my experience salting a roast ahead of time does not dry it out and really does let the seasoning penetrate the meat in a way that only salting right before cooking does not.  If you do this, use a light hand when seasoning again later.

Let the chicken sit at room temperature for at least an hour before you roast it.  A four pound bird takes about 60 minutes to cook.  Add 10 minutes to the cooking time for each additional pound.  The parboiled potatoes need about an hour in the roasting pan, so if you have a chicken over four pounds, take it out of the oven when it has about an hour left to cook and add the potatoes then.

Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Yield: Serves 4 to 8, depending on size of chicken and number of potatoes

1 whole roasting chicken, anywhere from 4 to 8 lbs.

a half dozen garlic cloves, separated but not peeled

one lemon, quartered

one handful fresh herbs leaves or sprigs (I like sage, thyme, or marjoram with chicken)

olive oil and/or butter

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 – 12 yukon gold potatoes (depending on size of chicken and capacity of roasting pan), peeled if you like and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the chicken in a roasting pan.  Season the cavity with salt and some juice from the lemon quarters, then stuff with the garlic, lemon, and half the herbs.  Rub the skin of the chicken all over with olive oil or butter, and season with salt and pepper.  If the bird is 6 lbs. or more, start it in the oven while you boil the potatoes.

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Place cut potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Add salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Drain potatoes in a colander, then return them to the warm pot and let them steam for a few minutes to remove excess moisture.  Gently shake the pan to roughen up the edges of the potatoes (this makes them crispier when they roast).  Add the potatoes to the roasting pan with chicken when the chicken has about an hour left to cook.  Season the potatoes with salt, tuck in the remaining herbs, and, if your chicken is small or seems very lean, drizzle potatoes lightly with olive oil.  Turn the potatoes once, half-way through cooking.

If there’s a lot of fat in the bottom of the roasting pan, remove potatoes immediately with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Stay tuned! And don’t toss the carcass — coming later this week to Well-fed Everyone:  Poor Man’s Rich Chicken Stock and Tortilla Soup.

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