My friends keep telling me I should get an Instant Pot. They sing its praised though I’m still not convinced. This is mainly because I have little room in my New York apartment to store it, but also because I’ve heard conflicting reports on its overall effectiveness. That said, its popularity speaks to people wanting a nutritious, home-cooked meal that can be prepared with little time and ease, and I totally get that. In my arsenal, I also have a handful of go-to recipes that I can make in an hour or so with just a single pot or two.
One such dish is my roast chicken with bacon, tomatoes, and green chiles. There are, of course, infinite ways to roast a chicken (and my first two books both have a recipe), though this version, which has been in heavy rotation at my house lately, is based on two recipes that I found while diving into Texas periodicals from the early 1900s.
The first was from a 1912 newspaper article, and it featured a whole butterflied chicken baked with tomatoes and green peppers. As I read it, I imagined the piquant tomato and pepper gravy would be a tangy complement to the chicken. Then I found in a 1947 El Paso cookbook a chicken seasoned with red chile powder before being cooked with tomatoes and bacon. This one also had long green chiles, though they were served on the side.
Taking the two recipes, I cobbled together a method. First, I sizzled some bacon in a large skillet, then threw in onions and garlic to the rendered fat. For the tomatoes, I poured in a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and all its juices. Finally, I added a butterflied chicken generously seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and New Mexican red chile powder.
After sliding the skillet into the oven, my kitchen was soon filled with an inviting, savory aroma. Fifty minutes passed, and I pulled the chicken out of the oven. The skin was brown and crisp and underneath the chicken bubbled a shimmering gravy studded with the tomatoes, aromatics, and bacon. I dipped in a spoon to take a sip and it was savory, smoky, and luscious without being too rich.
As the chicken cooled, I picked off pieces of the spicy, crackling skin. Then I cut the chicken into pieces and served it with the tomato pan gravy and fluffy white rice. The chicken was tender and juicy and the sauce had enough flavor to make the already well-seasoned bird sing. For further embellishment, I topped the chicken with cilantro leaves and a few squirts of fresh lime juice, both fine additions, too.
Now, who could refuse the charms of bacon, tomatoes, and green chiles smothered onto a juicy, flavorful chicken? I know that I can’t. And I’ll also say yes to cooking a warm meal with little fuss in just over an hour. This roast chicken is so simple and satisfying that I made it again a few nights later, and it’s been a favorite ever since.
Roast chicken with bacon, tomatoes, and green chiles
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon New Mexican red chile powder
- 1 (3- to 3 ½-pound) whole chicken
- 2 slices uncooked bacon
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles and its juices
- Cilantro, for garnishing
- Cooked rice, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix together the salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and chile powder until well combined.
To butterfly the chicken, with kitchen shears or a sharp knife cut the backbone from the chicken (reserving it for another use, such as stock). Flatten the chicken at its breast bone and place on a plate. Season the chicken all over on both sides (getting under the skin on the breasts and thighs), then let it rest as you cook the bacon and aromatics. (If you’re organized, you can also season the chicken then refrigerate it uncovered for up to 24 hours.)
Take a large cast-iron skillet, and cook the bacon on medium heat, turning once, until just beginning to crisp and the fat has rendered, about 7-10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the skillet. Pour off 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat into a bowl, then refrigerate. (This is too cool it off a bit but you’ll soon be using it again.)
Leaving the rest of the bacon fat in the skillet, add the onions and while occasionally stirring cook until fragrant and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
Turn off the heat. Chop the bacon, then stir it into the skillet along with the tomatoes and green chiles. Spread the reserved, refrigerated bacon fat on the chicken breasts under the skin, then place the butterflied chicken, breast side up, on top of the tomatoes.
Slide the skillet in the oven and cook uncovered until the skin is browned and the juices run clear, about 50 minutes, or when a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165° F.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Cut the chicken into pieces then garnish with cilantro and serve with the tomato-bacon pan drippings, cooked rice, and lime wedges.
New Mexican red chile powder can be found in most grocery stores or Mexican markets, though if you can't find it, you may substitute either another pure ground chile powder, such as ancho, or blended chili powder.