Million Dollar Chicken
For this Million Dollar Chicken recipe, a whole chicken is stuffed with garlic, lemon, and rosemary, and brushed with a luxurious creme fraiche while it’s roasted. A slice of sourdough underneath the chicken collects all the delicious juices and flavors too!
I’m always eager to try new ways of making chicken, and this was a recipe I tried back in 2013 after seeing it featured on an episode of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa on Food Network.
Ina was at the Standard Grill restaurant in NYC where the chef was showing how to make this signature dish, and I was immediately intrigued.
At first everything seemed pretty standard for roast chicken. The cavity is stuffed with aromatics like lemon and garlic, and gets a good rub of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
But then the chef did a few curious things.
First, he put the whole chicken on top of a thick slice of bread, resting in the roasting pan.
The result is a golden brown, crusty piece of bread that has spent an hour in the oven soaking up all the chicken juices and flavor. It’s SO good!
It’s kind of like a gigantic crouton, as it’s very toasted on the bottom, but because it’s soaking up juices and creme fraiche on the top too, it takes on a more moist and stuffing-like upper.
The chef also brushed the chicken with creme fraiche right at the end, which admittedly is an ingredient I like but hadn’t cooked with much at home.
I had always thought of creme fraiche as a very “restaurant” ingredient, but it’s actually really easy to find in most grocery stores.
How to Make Million Dollar Chicken:
To get started, set up your bread base by placing two slices of thick sourdough bread into a cast iron skillet:
I make a point to use a loaf that’s at least a day old, so it’s not too soft, and I cut the bread myself, about 1.5″ thick.
For the cavity of the chicken, you’ll want a few lemon slices, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, and fresh garlic cloves:
I smash the garlic to release the flavor, then put everything inside the cavity.
Rub the entire chicken inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper, then truss the bird with twine and place it into top of the bread.
After a little rub of olive oil, the chicken is now ready to head to the oven:
While the chicken is roasting, prepare the creme fraiche mixture, which is creme fraiche, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and pepper flakes:
The Standard Grill uses Aleppo pepper in the episode, but I have used smoked paprika and had success, and also Gochujaru flakes, which I’m using here. I have a jar of it in my fridge and it’s something I can easily get from my local Whole Foods, whereas I haven’t seen Aleppo pepper anywhere except online. You want something that’s relatively mild and fruity, and Gochujaru works well as a substitute.
Also, if you’re not familiar with creme fraiche, it’s like a cross between sour cream and mascarpone, both in flavor and in texture. It’s creamy, silky, tangy, and flavorful.
When the chicken is almost done cooking, brush the creme fraiche mixture generously all over the chicken:
Continue roasting the chicken, until fully cooked and golden on the outside, then let it rest on a board.
In the meantime cut the bread into pieces for serving with the meal. The bread should be thoroughly crisped on the bottom, like a big crouton, but have a fair amount of moisture as well from all the chicken juices and creme fraiche. It’s such a treat!
Just a few more notes for this recipe:
The chicken skin won’t be crispy once you brush it with the creme fraiche, so if you’re obsessed with crispy skin, that’s a tradeoff that maybe you won’t want to make here.
In the original recipe, you prepare the chicken by stuffing it and seasoning it a day ahead of time. If you can plan ahead, that advance step will make it better. Most of the time I don’t get that far ahead, and it’s still great.
Be very careful not to overcook the chicken. Unlike my Spatchcock Chicken recipe, I find that whole trussed birds can go dry pretty easily if you overcook them. Make sure to use a thermometer.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Cauliflower, and Charred Broccoli are some great vegetable side dishes to serve with this meal. Enjoy your Million Dollar Chicken!
Million Dollar Chicken
- 4 lb whole chicken patted very dry with a paper towel
- kosher salt*
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves fresh garlic smashed
- 3 slices fresh lemon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 1.5 inch thick piece of day-old sourdough bread
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper, gochujaru flakes, or smoked paprika
- Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before roasting, then preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
- Season the inside cavity of the chicken generously with salt and pepper, then stuff the cavity with the garlic, lemon, bay leaf, and rosemary. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine, then season the outside all over with plenty of salt and pepper.
- Place the pieces of bread in a cast iron skillet and set the trussed chicken on top of the bread.
- Roast the chicken for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400, and continue cooking for approximately 40-50 more minutes (this time varies depending on bird size).
- While the chicken roasts, mix together the creme fraiche, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pepper flakes. Set aside.
- When the chicken is almost done cooking and reading at about 150 degrees F, brush the chicken all over with the creme fraiche mixture (you will not use all of the creme fraiche). Continue roasting the chicken until it reads 165 degrees F between the breast and the thigh/leg, which should take about 10 more minutes.
- Remove the chicken to a board, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Slice the bread into pieces to be served with the chicken. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in April 2019. Originally published in August 2013.
30 Comments on “Million Dollar Chicken”
Hi, I can’t believe you answered my question about the bread under the roasted chicken!! I thought the bread could wind up as a greasy sponge, hey, Why Not Try? – – Then I “chickened” out!! I absolutely will try it now!! Thanx so much for the response, Blessings to you, Jan Patterson
Hi Jan, of course, and sorry it took me a little while to respond, I was really sick in late Jan. It’s definitely rich but has a lot of flavor. Happy cooking!
It wouldn’t work with this particular recipe to get the bread effect, but the way to make super moist roast chicken (or any other bird), is to cook that guy upside down. Meaning not breast up. About half an hour before the end time, you carefully turn it over, to let the skin brown. Or you can run it under the broiler for 5 -10 minutes.
You’ll never have a moister turkey or roast chicken than one cooked breast down.
To make the upside down method work with the bread, you’d turn over the chicken onto a fresh slice of bread that’s put in the bottom of the pan. It doesn’t matter if the bread soaks in the juice for half an hour or an hour and a half; the bread will soak up what it’s going to soak up in half an hour.
We watched the same episode and just had to try this at home, as well. It really is an amazing dish! Love all your photos 🙂
My son, 17, saw that episode and absolutely had to make that chicken. I have to say, he knocked it out of the park and it was hands down the best chicken I have ever eaten! He made his own creme fraiche, too, as we’ve tried to not buy premade ingredients for the last year.
Hi Cindy, wow, your son sounds like an incredibly talented cook! I have never made my own creme fraiche but have long thought about doing it. Thanks for your comment!
This chicken is very good! The garlic, lemons and rosemary made it very flavorful but the next time I make it I’ll leave out the creme fraiche. The skin was getting crispy until I brushed the creme fraiche on, it took away the crispiness. I also used 4 slices of bread which browned nicely, sliced it into smaller pieces and served it with the chicken. The family loved it!
Hi Teresa, I’m so glad you tried it and enjoyed! Yes, this is definitely not a crispy skinned chicken with the addition of the creme fraiche, so sometimes I just do the bread. The bread is one of the best parts of this dish. Cheers!