The journalist and owner of BIRD Bakery took PEOPLE inside her Los Angeles home to make the roast chicken she adapted from Zuni Café in San Francisco for our exclusive video series What I Really Cook for Dinner.
“If you make this chicken for one person, you’ll probably be eating it all week so it was really when I got married that I started making this meal for my husband and myself—and now my children love it,” she says.
Watch the full episode of “WHAT I REALLY COOK FOR DINNER: ELIZABETH CHAMBERS HAMMER” now on the new PeopleTV network. Go to PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
The dish calls for a whole chicken seasoned with salt and pepper and fresh herbs stuffed under the skin. “You can really play with it,” she says. “You don’t have to follow the recipe exactly, you can kind of just get whatever you have in the fridge and it is delicious.”
Chambers Hammer doesn’t use any oil or butter, but instead, after roasting the bird in a cast iron skillet, she cuts small slits into the breast and thigh and drizzles the pan drippings over the finished product.
“This is how you’re going to ensure you have the most moist and most delicious chicken you’ve ever had,” she says. “This step makes all the difference in the world.”
Watch the video above to see how she does it, then follow her full recipe below to make it yourself at home.
Elizabeth Chambers Hammer’s Zuni Roast Chicken
1 (2 ¾ lb.) free range chicken
5 thyme sprigs
8 rosemary sprigs
6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
Assorted roasted vegetables, for serving
1. Use a small pairing knife and your fingers to gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff the herbs and garlic under the skin and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 500°. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up, and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 475°, turn the chicken breast side down and roast for about 20 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced. Flip the bird back over and cook for 5 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a board and let rest for 10 minutes; carve.
3. Skim the fat from the juices in the skillet. Serve with a side of roasted vegetables. Pour the juices over all. Add 1 tablespoon water to the pan and pour over the chicken again.