One of the things I’m least looking forward to about re-entering polite society after our pandemic isolation is having to eat bone-in chicken with a knife and fork.
This past year has involved a blissful disregard of many utensils. We may light the candles and serve wine in crystal glasses, but forks have become purely optional, especially for poultry.
With their built-in handles, drumsticks are just so convenient for picking up and nibbling. I can’t even imagine how to wield a knife around a neck or a wing. Plus, if you’re a cartilage cruncher like me, there’s really no other efficient way to pry off every last tasty morsel. Bone-in meat tastes better, too, with the marrow adding richness as it seeps into the flesh during cooking.
Whether you eat it with silverware or your fingers, one of the best and easiest ways to cook bone-in chicken is to roast marinated pieces spread out on a sheet pan.
The basic method is always the same: Salt the chicken, season it with garlic (nonnegotiable) and any herbs and spices you like, then let it sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature while the oven heats (or refrigerate it for up to 24 hours). Next, lay the pieces on a sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and roast until the skin is burnished, sizzling and gorgeously crisp.
Roasting chicken parts is faster than cooking a whole chicken, and usually a lot more flavorful, since the marinade can thoroughly coat the pieces.
For this recipe, I’ve stirred some honey into the marinade, which adds sweetness and deepens the color of the chicken skin, blistering it mahogany. Rosemary and red-pepper flakes give spice and depth; crumbled feta adds a salty, creamy tang; and thinly sliced lemon lends brightness.
You might wonder whether or not to eat the lemon slices after roasting. This depends on how much sourness you can take as well as what kind of lemon you’ve used. Meyer lemons are a lot gentler than the standard fruit. The honey also helps tame the tartness, so, even acid-avoiders might hazard a bite.
The sticky, schmaltzy, sweet-and-sour drippings on the bottom of the pan are one of this dish’s great joys, so be prepared to sop them up with some bread. Or you can spoon them over rice or potatoes. In those cases, your fork might be just the thing.