Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots

I used to be one of those that was surprised when people said, “I don’t have time to cook.” To me, cooking and shopping for ingredients, which take the better parts of my days, has always been a pleasure for me rather than a burden. However, now I get it. Making dinner after a long day at work can be a challenge. In France, people don’t get home from work until 7 or 7:30pm, and not everyone wants to put on a kitchen apron when they get home and get moving on dinner.

Even during the lockdown, when we found ourselves having more time around the house, I was busier than ever. It was a challenge tracking down ingredients, and cooking all the time led to lots of dishes. I was also doing my best not to let anything go to waste, which meant that instead of tossing radish leaves, I made radish leaf soup. A bag of lemons that started looking past their prime became jars of lemon curd. And a compunction to update older blog posts (and photos) as I revisited them during the lockdown, from French Chocolate Mousse Cake and Carrot Salad to Cosmopolitans, it’s no wonder after the lockdown ended, I felt like I needed a vacation!

Until that happens, this Caramelized Shallot Chicken is a low-stress dinner and very easy to make for this recipe adapted from French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis, a friend who teaches cooking classes in France. The only real work is mincing a few shallots. Everything else is done in the oven. Even better, there are hardly any dishes to wash afterward. You just toss chicken pieces in olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and shallots in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven. While baking, the shallots get crispy-sweet and caramelized, and since it only takes about 45 minutes to bake, you have time to mix yourself a drink, like a Sidecar or a French Manhattan.

One thing to know if that the French generally cut a chicken into eight pieces, not six. The breasts are cut in half crosswise (not lengthwise) and the wings are left on the tips on the breast pieces, as shown below. If you buy a whole cut-up chicken, I recommend cutting the bone-in breasts in half with a chef’s knife or asking the butcher to do it.

Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I added a splash of soy sauce, which is one of the secret ingredients in many dishes, even in French cooking. At a restaurant in Lyon that is widely known for their ‘top-secret’ salad dressing, I ate there with a chef friend. The first thing we said after we tasted it?—Soy sauce.

So I added a bit to the sauce, which gives this dish a savory-salty umami taste—which in French, I believe, is called je ne sais quoi. Feel free to change around what vinegar to use. Balsamic may not be sharp enough, and perhaps too sweet (although if you like it, you could certainly give it a try), but apple cider vinegar would be nice, as would be sherry vinegar, which is often my vinegar of choice for a vinaigrette.

Aside from its utter simplicity, the other great thing about this dish is that aside from the chicken, you likely have the other ingredients in your pantry. If you don’t keep shallots around, you might want to reconsider that. Because once you taste it, you’ll want to be able to make this at a moment’s notice, as I often do.

Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots
Print Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from French Farmhouse Cookbook (Workman) by Susan Herrmann Loomis I use a whole chicken cut into eight pieces; two legs, two thighs, and I cut each breast piece in half, crosswise, keeping the wings attached. You could also just use eight of your favorite chicken pieces. The shallots I used were about the size of an unshelled walnut. The total weight of the four shallots is about 6 ounces (170g.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 large shallots, peeled and minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
One whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
one generous handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC.)
2. In a large baking dish, one which will hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, mix the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, and some salt and pepper.
3. Toss the chicken in the mixture so they’re completely coated with the shallots. Turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up.
4. Roast the chicken until it starts to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Turn the pieces of chicken over. Scrape any juices and shallots over the chicken that may be clinging to the pan, and bake for another twenty minutes, or until the pieces of chicken are cooked through and the shallots are well-caramelized.
5. Remove from oven and toss with the chopped parsley.

Serving: Serve with roasted or steamed vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta, or a green salad.

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Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots

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  • Kathleen
    May 22, 2020 5:12pm

    My mouth was watering at the first photo. Going to make it this week. Merci! Reply

  • witloof
    May 22, 2020 5:55pm

    Ohhhh, caramelized shallots are so wonderful! I made Alison Roman’s caramelized shallot pasta this week and could have eaten the whole pan of shallots before I added the rest of the ingredients. Reply

  • Joe
    May 22, 2020 6:22pm

    It appears in the pictures of the finished dish, that the chicken was cooked skin side down first then finished, skin side up for browning. Is that not the case? Reply

    • May 22, 2020 6:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      The chicken parts get tossed in parsley in the last step so the picture of the finished dish shows pieces of chicken in different angles and places. Reply

    • Sarah G
      May 23, 2020 4:11am

      I wanted to make this as soon as I saw “carmelized shallots”. I didn’t have a whole chicken, just wings, thighs and legs, so I used those. Added halved Brussel sprouts for the last 15 minutes of cooking, since my daughter wanted a green veggie to go with the chicken. This was fast, easy and very delicious. Thank you! Reply

  • Patricia Davis
    May 22, 2020 6:27pm

    Looks yum! I am 70 and my husband is 72, we are still in lockdown in Kansas—our choice now—after the lockdown crazies are out and about paying no attention to the the “new rules” of masks and social distancing. We’re lucky that a a farmer and butcher have teamed together to make a delivery service of local /regional organic produce. The chicken breast are gone fast. Most people don’t want to deal with the whole chicken. I roasted one this week.Next time I’ll add the shallots. Agree about the soy. I sometimes use fish sauce for the same purpose. Would love to know the Lyon restaurant with the secret recipe! I hope to live long enough to get back there. Such lovely food memories. And yes, washing dishes can be a bitch. There have been days I slapped a ham sandwich on a paper towel (back when we had those!) and told my husband be glad someone made him lunch. At those times, he did do the dishes!! (haha) Reply

    • May 22, 2020 6:53pm
      David Lebovitz

      At the outdoor market today, now that they are open, most people were wearing masks (because it’s mostly people over 30-35 at the markets) but few, if any, were practicing social distancing, with is 1 meter (3ft) in France, which doesn’t give a lot of leeway. It was quite stressful shopping and I didn’t stay long… Reply

  • Sally
    May 22, 2020 9:00pm

    Looks great. Will definitely try. Question: Does 4 large shallots mean 4 sections of one shallot or 4 entire shallots? I am always confused by this. Any help appreciated. S. Reply

    • Jean
      May 22, 2020 11:53pm

      Four large shallots means 4 entire shallots. If they are attached, that’s two (or more) shallots. In the recipe headnote David gives a size for each shallot and a weight for the shallots in total which is extremely helpful. Reply

  • Sarah G
    May 23, 2020 4:10am

    I wanted to make this as soon as I saw “carmelized shallots”. I didn’t have a whole chicken, just wings, thighs and legs, so I used those. Added halved Brussel sprouts for the last 15 minutes of cooking, since my daughter wanted a green veggie to go with the chicken. This was fast, easy and very delicious. Thank you! Reply

  • Leah Butler
    May 23, 2020 5:14am

    I saw this the day you posted it and I thought “I know what I am making for dinner!” It was absolutely delicious. I added carrots when I flipped the chicken and served it with rice and salad. Definitely making this again soon. Reply

  • Pat leyland
    May 23, 2020 5:58am

    i’ve made this recipe of yours many times ,it’s hard to beat for simplicity and ease thx from yrs ago again lol Reply

  • Valerie
    May 23, 2020 8:22am

    220 ° during 40 minutes seems a whole lot of heat. Wouldn’t that only be be for the first 20 minutes ?
    Also, I am always wondering whether the temperatures of ovens in recipes are meant for traditional ovens or convection (chaleur tournante) ovens ? It would be nice to specify :-) Reply

  • Vivian
    May 23, 2020 4:07pm

    David — an earlier version of this from your column some years ago has become a go-to recipe and everyone loves it.

    Shallot tip: If you put them in a sieve and pour boiling water over them, they will be much easier to peel. Reply

  • Rachel
    May 23, 2020 7:46pm

    As I already said, I love this and many of your recipes, including zhug. Unfortunately, the last time I tried to make this, I dropped one of the shallots on the floor and my dog ate it.
    Next I’m going to try to make the poilane bread, which is a reach for me, but I think will be good. I got fresh yeast from whole foods, bc there is no dry yeast anywhere in America, apparently Reply

  • Jo-Ann Langlois
    May 24, 2020 2:34am

    I saw this recipe yesterday and made it today only with thighs. We really loved it. It is absolutely the easiest chicken dish ever. Reply

  • Annie - NSW
    May 24, 2020 11:17am

    Hi David
    I use Worcester sauce in my Vinaigrette – a lovely addition…
    not as much required as you have of Soy… Reply

  • Annie
    May 24, 2020 11:48am

    I made it today with 8 chicken pieces. I didn’t have shallots so used a spanish onion instead. It was so delicious! I can’t believe such common ingredients can yield such a tasty meal.

    Thank you David! You are a hero in our house – mostly for ice cream, but now for dinner too! Reply

  • May 24, 2020 10:35pm

    Made it today for my family. Didn’t have shallots (i never been in the presence of one) so used yellow onions. And it was delicious anyways. Thank you! Reply

  • Helen
    May 25, 2020 5:48am

    Made this for lunch yesterday – delicious and wonderfully straightforward, Thank You! Reply

  • Randy Francisco
    May 25, 2020 6:31pm

    This was so easy and tasty! I let the chicken marinate four three hours beforehand. Reply

  • May 26, 2020 3:01am

    We didn’t have shallots, but we had an onion and 6 bone in chicken thighs. It was absolutely delicious, simple and satisfying. We did not do a cocktail, but drank a California Zin with it La Storia 2015. Last week end we made the radish leaf soup from our garden radishes…and it was superb. Who knew? I had ordered Drinking French right before lock down started here in Socal and we have made several cocktails with Chartreuse and Lejay creme de cassis. We love our summer trips to France and we are sad not to be going this year, but we will be trying more recipes and cocktails in the meantime. Bientôt on va avoir les abricots et je voudrais bien une recette pour un clafoutis ou une glace pour servir avec les abricots. Merci mille fois David. :) et Salut à Romain aussi! Reply

  • Mquinn
    May 26, 2020 3:57am

    Thank you David, this was so good. We will be making this one again. We really appreciate your food and drink recipes. Reply

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