Sunday Night Roast Chicken & The Family Dinner

sunday-roast-chicken

One of the nicest things about going on vacation with kids that are old enough to swim by themselves is that you can actually read by the pool. This may sound like a small thing, but after eight years of hovering nervously over my children while on vacation, it’s very liberating. The point of all this is that I finally had a chance to read Laurie David’s new cookbook, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, and have been brimming with excitement to tell you about it ever since. The book is so much more than just a collection of interesting recipes — though there are many by co-author Kirstin Uhrenholdt — it’s an inspirational guide to making dinnertime a special ritual in your home.

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David, best known as the producer of An Inconvenient Truth and ex-wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David, understands that dinnertime is not always easy: life is busy, kids are antsy or texting, husbands are distracted, and a meal that takes two hours to prepare is inhaled in less than ten minutes. To help, she offers lots of recipes and fun ideas like theme nights, table games and conversation starters to make dinner fun and encourage families to linger at the table. She also shares traditions and candid stories from her own parenting journey—from babies to teenagers to divorce—and shows how the simple ritual of dinner kept everyone connected and together through it all. I’m a big fan of hers (and her ex) and loved how the book felt like chatting over coffee at her kitchen table.

If you take only a few ideas from the book, I think you’ll find it worthwhile. For me, the “aha moment” was the chapter on gratitude. I realized that dinner is not just about the food—you need rituals to set the tone. Taking a moment to appreciate the meal and people around us helps us disconnect from our busy lives and ease into quality family time. And it doesn’t have to be religious. David offers pages of suggestions, from prayers to quotations to funny childhood poems (my kids liked the old camp blessing, “Rub a Dub Dub, Thanks for the Grub, Yea God!”)—mix it up, come up with your own, whatever works for you.

To be honest, I loved the message of this book so much that I didn’t even care about the recipes, but I tried and few and, to my delight, they were delicious. I felt this one for Sunday Night Roast Chicken really captured the essence of the book, which is about creating cozy moments for your family around the dinner table. Try serving it with my Parmesan Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots with Thyme. Enjoy!

You can purchase The Family Dinner Book here, or check out the website.

Note: I’ve taken some liberties in adapting this recipe. The original version calls for a whole chicken, but I prefer a cut-up chicken instead because it’s much easier to serve. I’ve also made some minor changes to the ingredients and method, but the finished product is pretty much the same. If your grocery store carries a “Poultry Blend” herb mixture, buy that–it contains all the herbs you’ll need.

Sunday Night Roast Chicken

Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the Herb Butter

  • 5 3-inch sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Chicken

  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 whole head garlic, clean, unpeeled and cut in half horizontally
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chicken, 4 – 4 ½ pounds, cut into pieces (or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts)
  • Herb butter (above)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Make the herb butter: Pull herbs from the stems and chop finely. Combine the chopped herbs, shallots, lemon zest, honey and butter in small bowl and blend well. Set aside.
  3. Place the shallots and garlic in a roasting pan and toss with the olive oil (it's okay if the garlic breaks apart a bit). Pat the chicken VERY dry with paper towels (this will help the skin to crisp) and place in the roasting pan; do not crowd. Use a soup spoon to rub the herb butter all over the chicken and under the skin too (if you don't eat the skin, rub a lot of it underneath!). Sprinkle the kosher salt evenly all over the chicken and season with fresh pepper to your liking. Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees; continue to roast for 15-20 minutes more, or until done. Chicken should be done in less than an hour; do not overcook.
  4. Transfer the chicken and the shallots to serving platter to rest and cover with foil. Discard the garlic. Pour off all the fat, leaving the brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the chicken stock and place on the stove over high heat; bring to a boil and whisk in Dijon mustard. Using whisk or wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 5-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Pour the sauce into a gravy boat and serve alongside chicken. (If you want to get fancy, you can strain the gravy but I never bother.)

Reviews & Comments

  • Thanks! Was a great favourite with the family. I added some whole local Cambodian pepper corns to the herb butter and served with parmesan mashed potatoes and carrots glazed in fresh lemon juice and palm sugar.

    - Trevor on April 27, 2014 Reply
  • Hello,
    I want to try this recipe but I don’t eat dairy. What can I use to substitute for unsalted butter? Also, has anyone tried a substitution, and if so, how did it come out?
    Thanks!

    - Vic on December 4, 2013 Reply
  • I want to try this recipe for my family’s Sunday Dinner- but I have 4 growing boys (2 are teens) and a husband. Any tips on doubling the recipe?

    - Tammy on May 21, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Tammy, It should double just fine. Hope your boys enjoy it :)

      - Jenn on May 21, 2013 Reply
  • I made this last night for my book club – including the carrots and the smashed potatoes and it was spectacular. I did the 4 bone-in chicken breasts as suggested instead of the whole chicken – it was easy, looked beautiful and was delicious. One of my friends snatched the discarded garlic clove to take home with her. I think she would have taken off with the whole platter if I’d let her… Thank you so much for yet another amazing recipe – as someone who has no culinary instincts, I so blog and your spirit.

    - elizabeth s on April 22, 2013 Reply
    • That should have read “I so appreciate your blog and your spirit.” :)

      - elizabeth s on April 22, 2013 Reply
      • Thank you, Elizabeth!

        - Jenn on April 22, 2013 Reply
  • So yummy! This was the first recipe from “Once Upon A Chef” that I ever tried. This appears on our table for Sunday dinner at least once a month. I use any leftovers to make a delicious soup. Thanks for sharing your talent!

    - Melissa Lee on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • This is so delicious! I used chicken breasts, had all the herbs available in my garden, and served it with roasted carrots with peas and mashed potatoes. Used the leftovers the next day to make a shepherd’s pie.

    - Julie Backas on October 2, 2012 Reply
  • This was absolutely delicious. I ended up using a whole chicken (what I had on hand), so I stuffed the cavity with lemon, garlic, and some of the extra herbs. I also forgot shallots at the store, left out the dijon mustard in the gravy (I don’t care for it), and I had a little extra herb butter leftover so I used that in the gravy instead of plain butter. Thanks to everyone for the tip of making extra herb butter and freezing it. Herbs are not cheap, so this was a great idea. Even with the changes I made, it was still the best roasted chicken I have ever eaten, and my husband agreed. Will definitely make this again.

    - Amber R on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • This was a very good recipe. I made it with all chicken thighs and drumsticks. My husband usually only likes what we call chicken fried chicken (that’s what our kids call fried chickn), but he even ate the leftovers of this!

    - Angela on March 4, 2012 Reply
  • This looks like the perfect Sunday dinner meal! Maybe for this Sunday :)

    - Stefani on March 3, 2012 Reply
  • I made this last night. I have to say it was one of the best roasted chicken recipes I have had the pleasure of attempting. I look forward to sharing it with friends and family

    - Victoria N O'Connor on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • We love this recipe, it makes a regular appearance at our dinner table

    - Laurie g on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • This is now a go to dinner for company – you can prepare it and put it in the oven and visit and know a delicious dinner will go on the table. My family has loved every recipe I have ever tried from this site and I have tried many. Thank you Jennifer.

    - Belinda on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I made this last week for my family. It was delicious!

    - Angela on February 24, 2012 Reply
  • A year later this is still one of my favorite recipes! Thank you

    - Adrienne on February 18, 2012 Reply
  • I made this tonight along with the suggested sides. It was fantastic and received rave reviews. I used 4 bone-in chicken breasts.

    - Danita on March 10, 2011 Reply
  • I made this chicken for dinner last night; the flavor was fantastic! The skin was crisp and delicious, the meat was moist and juicy. We saved the roasted garlic and spread it on challah. As recommended by another reviewer, I made a large batch of herb butter and froze it in portions. I can’t wait to enjoy this recipe again!

    - Bonnie on February 5, 2011 Reply
  • Jennifer -

    The chicken was terrific! Everyone enjoyed it – it was juicy, flavorful and the sauce was great ). And, as you said, the reheated leftovers were great.

    I had the dish ready to go into the oven and it cooked during cocktails – when covered and resting while the sauce reduced, I put it (along with the completed smashed potatoes) in the warming oven set to “moist”. And when the sauce was done, I added that too. It was all probably there for 10 minutes while people were seated and we made kiddush. Everything was just right out of the drawer!

    Thanks again for your help and another great recipe!

    - Susan on January 25, 2011 Reply
  • Hi Susan,

    The roast chicken is definitely best served right out of the oven. Your instincts are right that the chicken would likely dry out. Also, the herbs and lemon zest get wonderfully crispy in the oven and that texture will get lost if it sits. If it helps, the sauce is actually really easy to make. Now that said, I will tell you that I’ve reheated leftovers in the oven with excellent results, so if you had to do it ahead of time I think it’s better to cook it then reheat it, rather than keep it warm for a long period of time but I’m not sure I’d risk that with company :-)

    Hope that helps! Jenn

    - Jennifer on January 25, 2011 Reply
  • I’m planning to try your recent Sunday Night Chicken for a dinner party tomorrow and am considering how to handle preparation somewhat in advance utilizing my Miele warming oven. Do you think this is possible without compromising the look, taste and texture? Can the entire dish be done in advance (like 5 PM – 6 PM for 8 PM consumption?) and not have the chicken dry out? That is chicken kept covered (or maybe not??) and the reduced sauce both waiting in the warming oven?? Do you think it could be juicy after 90 minutes? I’d like to have the sauce reduced and the pan cleaned in advance – if possible. But – the chicken must be cooked to achieve this and I don’t want it to dry out or the herbs to look “olive” instead of green!

    - susan on January 25, 2011 Reply
  • My husband is a huge fan of roast chicken. I have tried many other recipes but I have to say this was by far the best roast chicken ever. Thank you for sharing it.

    - Deniz on January 20, 2011 Reply
  • So delicious!!! We love all your recipes!!! This was so good and I used some of the chicken to make soup. It was the best.

    - Kim (your artist friend) on January 19, 2011 Reply
  • Made the chicken last night–yum! Thanks for sharing!

    - Carin on January 16, 2011 Reply
  • I made the roasted chicken last weekend. It was delicious. (I actually made 4 times the recipe for the herb butter and froze it. Fresh herbs are really expensive where I live, so I figured I should try to get a few uses out of it.) I’ve been looking forward to an occasion to make the Rosemary nuts as well — we’re planning on hosting some people for the football game this Sunday – a perfect excuse. Thanks again for these posts. I really enjoy the way you tell the stories – especially with step by step pictures.

    - rachel on January 14, 2011 Reply
    • What a great idea! Herbs are very expensive here as well, so I think I’ll try your tip of making extra and freezing it.

      - Angela on February 24, 2012 Reply
  • Ordered the book and made the chicken. Delicious!

    - Lynne on January 13, 2011 Reply
  • I enjoyed your post about Laurie David’s cookbook and family dinners. It is true – you spend so much time planning, shopping, cooking, and then cleaning up all in the name of the family dinner. When they woof down or complain about your food, it is a bummer. I get through it because I know that what goes on at the family table is more than filling hungry bellies. I cannot wait to read this book. Thanks for the tip!

    - Waverly on January 11, 2011 Reply
  • SOunds like a wonderful cookbook! And I totally agree..kids learning to swim…YES!!!

    - leslie on January 8, 2011 Reply
  • It sounds like a lovely book – I’ve been seeing it around a lot lately. Mealtimes are our favorite parts of the day (and not just because we’re eating!). The chicken looks amazing. :-)

    - Kathy - Panini Happy on January 6, 2011 Reply

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