Whole roasted chicken, fancy enough for company

I have quite a large collection of cookbooks that I started putting together in my late teens. They vary greatly in subject matter and cuisine. I have a few that outline specific diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, grain-free, sugar-free, and even one that helps you identify and eliminate foods that trigger migraines. I have books on Japanese and Chinese cuisine, Indian, Native American, Southern, Italian and Spanish tapas, barbecue and baking, and several on Mexican cuisine, from pre-Columbian to modern interpretations of classic dishes. I have yet to cook from most of my collection, but I read them like novels from cover to cover, expanding my knowledge of flavor combinations, ingredients, and techniques.

There are a few in my collection that I cook from a lot. One is “At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking” by Nigella Lawson (Flatiron Books; 2017; 288 pages; $35). I found out about this book through an Instagram account I started following in 2018. Deborah Balint (@raindaybites) started Instagram’s first online cookbook club nine years ago with #rainydaybitescookbookclub. “I had kids at home and knew I couldn’t commit to going to a local cookbook club,” Balint told me. “(I) thought there must be other people, like me, who couldn’t go because of family, work or travel issues. So I just started it!” She added that the cookbook club has become a great way to create a community with people all over the world. Initially, Balint’s food photography attracted me, and I watched from a distance for a while before finally joining in on the fun.

Playing along is easy. Balint identifies the cookbook, then chooses two recipes that will be the challenge recipes, plus a third optional bonus recipe. She chooses a date for each recipe photo to be posted live to Instagram, tagged #rainydaycookbookclub, so everyone can see how the dish turned out for you. In addition to these three challenge recipes, you can make other recipes from the cookbook throughout the month and share them with the same hashtag. Anyone can join and become a member at any time. Just find the cookbook announcement post on Deborah’s feed (the cover of the cookbook) and follow the directions. It’s a fun way to get out of a cooking rut, learn new techniques and make new online friends who share your passion for cooking and baking.

Being a fan of Lawson’s work, it seemed only fitting that the first monthly challenge I decided to participate in was for “At My Table.” The recipes, many of which have stories and memories weaved through their accompanying lead notes, are written in Lawson’s famously intimate, sensually unique voice that also comes across as a little sassy in places where I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I can imagine her writing the main notes of her recipe with a smile and a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” vibe.

There’s a lot to love about this cookbook: each recipe comes with a beautiful color photo, with simple food styling to show you exactly what the finished dish should look like; clear but extremely descriptive instructions that make you feel like Lawson is cooking with you in the kitchen; and my favorite part, the organization of the ingredient list, which lists the ingredient first, followed by the measure (pepper – well ground; garlic – a thick clove; sea salt – a thick pinch; dill – a few leaves; olive oil – 1 tablespoon, etc.). So you can see the ingredients with one scan, so you can quickly assess which ingredients you already have in your pantry.

Today’s chicken recipe was the first in Balint’s “At My Table” challenge.

I’ve made a lot of chicken over the years, but this roasted spatchcocked chicken was by far the best I’ve ever made. Symbolic of Lawson’s simple yet flavorful cooking style, the chicken sits overnight in a bath of white miso, vegetable oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, grated fresh ginger and garlic. An hour before you’re ready to roast, it’s on the counter and rises to room temperature. It is then broiled, covered until almost cooked, drizzled with more sesame oil and sprinkled generously with sesame seeds before going into the oven uncovered, until the skin is crispy and golden and the chicken is cooked through. I cooked mine about 10 minutes longer to get the perfect color for the photo – the chicken fared no worse over the longer time, remaining juicy and tantalizingly fragrant.

Lawson’s recipe needs a bit of additional instruction that might be considered unnecessary for experienced home cooks, but essential for newcomers, so I’ve included that in my edit (e.g. how to spatchcock a chicken).

This chicken may take a little too long for a weeknight meal, but it’s excellent for weekend cooking—with any leftovers, you’ll have a satisfying weeknight lunch.

Butterfly chicken with miso and sesame seeds

Find soft white miso at local Asian markets, Gelson’s, Jimbo’s Naturally, Lazy Acres, Krisp Beverages and Natural Foods, Seaside Market, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Windmill Farms. Tip: To keep my ginger fresh, I keep the well-rinsed, unpeeled ones buttons in the freezer and use a microplane on the frozen ginger for the lightest, fluffiest, finest grater pieces.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon of vegetables OI
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
4 teaspoons of soft white miso
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
4 pounds whole organic chicken
2 teaspoons of sesame seeds

Make the marinade: In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, a teaspoon of sesame oil, the miso, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, and garlic; put aside.

Spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken: Remove any entrails from the chicken and set aside. Place the chicken breast side down on a board with the butt facing you. Cut along one side of the spine with very sharp kitchen shears, starting at the back end and working your way up to the nape of the neck. Repeat on the other side of the spine. Turn the bird over, breast side up. Place one palm on the center of the chest and your other palm on the back of your hand and press down firmly until you hear and feel the sternum snap. Your chicken should now lie flat against the board. Store the backbone and giblets in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer for your next batch of bone broth.

Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken in a large resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag tightly, then turn it over a few times and massage the marinade into the chicken until it is as evenly coated as possible. Refrigerate overnight.

Preparing to roast: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before roasting. Empty the contents into a quarter sheet pan (or a low pan just big enough to hold the chicken). Make sure the chicken is breast side up and position the legs so that the thighs are flat against the pan and the ends of the legs each touch their respective corners. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken’s neck. Let the chicken come to room temperature on the counter.

Roast the chicken: Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the chicken tightly with heavy aluminum foil. When the oven is up to temperature, place the chicken in it and roast for 45 minutes.

Finish: Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully remove the foil. Brush the chicken with its juices and drizzle the remaining sesame oil evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and place the uncovered chicken in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin is crispy, the chicken is a wonderfully golden color, and the chicken registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast (the top part closest to where the neck bone was; make sure to insert the probe at an angle, avoiding the bone).

Serve the chicken over sushi rice with a splash of the cooking liquid.

Adapted from “At My Table” by Nigella Lawson. Recipe, as written, is copyrighted by Anita L. Arambula and has been reprinted with permission from “Confessions of a Foodie.”

Arambula is the art director and designer of the food department. She blogs confessionsofafoodie.mevalue original version of this article has been published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at [email protected].