Chicken roasted with vegetables—nothing is more delicious, or easier, but pulling off this classic as a slow roast is bit more complicated. It is literally impossible to overcook the bird, which is exactly the way most roast chickens go astray. The wrinkle lies with the vegetables: root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes - the vegs that taste especially yummy roasted around a chicken) will never get done at the low temperature that’s ideal for roasting chicken. So when slow roasting a chicken with potatoes, or onions, or parsnips, or carrots it is common to blanch them or fry them briefly to soften their tough fibers before throwing them in the roasting pan. But not if you think young.
Because tender root vegetables like baby carrots, young pool ball-size onions, and slender lithe parsnips are too youthful to have developed strong cross-linking fibers, they don't require lots of heat to break their cellulose apart. Typically the hemicelluloses and pectins in the tough cell walls of mature root vegetables don't even begin to soften until cooking temperatures exceed 180°F/80°C, which is about 10°F/5°C too hot for slow roasting a chicken. But young vegetables with their baby-soft cell walls begin to become succulent and tender at temperatures as low as 140°F/60°C.
The antecedent for this riff is Slow-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Herbs from my book Cooking Slow. In that classic recipe sliced potatoes are well-browned in a heavy skillet, forming a vegetable bed for an herb-slathered slow roasting chicken. In the riff the vegetables are more varied and easier to work with and the herb paste that is slathered under the chicken skin is effortlessly replaced with a sprinkle of Chef Salt.
Remove the giblets from the chicken and discard (or save for another use). Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.
At least 1 hour before you plan to start roasting the chicken or up to the night before, season the chicken inside and out with 2 tablespoons of the Chef Salt. If starting more than 1 hour ahead, refrigerate the chicken, uncovered; remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to start roasting, to take the chill off.
Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat until sizzling. Add the onions, carrots and parsnips, and sauté until they brown on the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining Chef Sal, tomatoes, and potatoes and toss to coat with oil.
Put the chicken, breast side down, on top of the vegetables, and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 170ºF/75ºC, turn the chicken breast side up. Out the rosemary sprigs in the internal cavity of the chicken, and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching bone) registers 170ºF/75ºC, 4 to 6 hours. (Another beauty part of this method: timing is not crucial. At such a low temperature, the chicken will not overcook.)
To finish, raise the oven temperature to 500ºF/260ºC and roast until the skin of the chicken is nicely browned all over and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Store for up to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in a low oven.
What happens when you pair two chefs and a card-carrying chemist? Ari Daniel was invited into the kitchen of Kimball House to observe.