Nigella Lawson Solved Ina Garten's Years-Long Chicken Conundrum

Anyone who's watched "The Barefoot Contessa" likely knows that Ina Garten's husband, Jeffrey, loves roast chicken. In fact, as Garten once told Food Network, every Friday, when Jeffrey gets home from work, there are always two things welcoming him: Ina and a roast chicken dinner. Given that the pair have been married for more than 54 years, that roast chicken must be pretty good.

Over the years, Garten has become a chicken expert, preparing it dozens of different ways and offering advice on the best kind of chicken to use. Her "perfect" roast chicken recipe, flavored with simple ingredients such as lemon and garlic, has racked up more than 1.7 million views on YouTube. Each of her 13 best-selling cookbooks adds new twists and flavors to her repertoire.

The veteran chef has been in the food business since opening her trademark store in East Hampton, New York, in 1978. So it was both surprising and refreshing to see Garten admit to struggling with a classic recipe — and to taking advice from fellow celebrity cooking expert Nigella Lawson.

Winner winner, one-pot chicken dinner

After an October 2022 appearance on the "Today" show for a cooking demonstration with co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, Ina Garten got candid about struggling with the recipe she made on-air. Her "Chicken In a Pot with Orzo" appeared as so many of her classic recipes do: rustic, simple, yet elevated. But in the recipe notes, Garten talks about trying to get the dish just exactly right for years and winding up with chicken soup instead of a heartier, one-pot meal. Enter Nigella Lawson's cookbook "Cook, Eat, Repeat."

According to that same recipe note, Garten says it was Lawson's suggestion to brown the chicken before placing it in a stockpot with leeks, carrots, celery, parsnips, and herbs to create a savory broth. The extra step "adds lots of flavor" to the dish, according to Garten. The choice of pasta also came from Lawson, who advised Garten to "add orzo to thicken the broth." The orzo is added after removing the stockpot from the oven. It's left to sit, covered, for about 20 minutes to soak up the scrumptious, herbaceous broth.

Not only is it reassuring for home cooks to see that even the most accomplished chefs still need advice from time to time; it's completely in line with Ina Garten's homey, accessible cooking style and welcoming demeanor. And judging by the "Today" hosts' reactions upon sampling the dish, this one-pot wonder seems destined to become another Barefoot Contessa classic. 

Making the perfect roast chicken

If all this talk about chicken dinners has you drooling, you're not alone. While it seems like almost every celebrity chef has a recipe for "perfect" roasted chicken, there are some excellent, timeless tips for getting your bird cooked just right. 

In his MasterClass on roasted chicken, Gordon Ramsay advises letting the chicken come to room temperature before roasting. He also suggests brushing the chicken with egg yolk to help seasonings such as salt, pepper, and herbs stick to the skin. Samin Nosrat, author of "Salt Fat Acid Heat," suggests marinating chicken in buttermilk for 24 hours and periodically turning the bag of marinade so that "every part of the chicken gets marinated." She also suggests seasoning the chicken at least 30 minutes prior to roasting. If you prefer grilling your chicken, Bobby Flay recommends wrapping bricks in aluminum foil and placing them on top of your chicken for more even cooking.

With as many roasted chicken recipes as there are chefs, the possibilities for this classic, comforting dinner are endless. But as Ina Garten's beloved husband, Jeffrey, knows, sometimes the simplest way is the perfect way.