Most chefs agree that the trickiest thing about cooking a whole chicken is getting the breast just right without overcooking the legs and wings. To solve that problem, Hatfield likes to cook his whole chickens in a small pot. “I have one that the bird fits sort of snug in,” he explains. “The breast ends up way up at the top of this pot, so there’s enough heat on it for it to get a nice rendering on the skin. And then the juice goes to the bottom, where it gets a little steamier, and that helps cook the legs.”
1 whole chicken
2 large sweet potatoes (about 16 oz)
4 oz butter
Kosher salt, to taste
1 oz grated Gruyère
2 handful ripped kale
Red-wine vinegar and pepper, to taste
A few avocado slices
1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Pat chicken dry and rub with olive oil. Add 12 oz water to a high-sided pot the bird will fit snugly in; tuck the wings underneath to raise the breast.
2) Place pot on a burner until water boils, then put in oven for about 90 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken reads 165°. Remove from oven; let rest for 15 minutes.
3) Peel sweet potatoes and slice to about 1/16 inch. (A mandoline is especially useful for this.)
4) Melt butter in a large sauté pan, then add a third of the potato slices. Season with salt, add another third, season, and add the last third and season.
5) Place pan in oven and cook 15 minutes. Remove and use a spatula to flip the gratin over in sections. (Don’t worry if it falls apart a bit.) Return to oven for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.
6) Sprinkle Gruyère on top and return to oven for a minute to melt it.
7) Place gratin on plates. Remove breasts from chicken, slice, and place on top of gratin.
8) Toss kale with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and avocado for a salad.
■ When the chicken is finished cooking, Hatfield pulls the breasts off for this dish, then, after it cools, he pulls the rest of the meat off the bone and uses it for a chicken salad with mayo, scallion, avocado, diced-up hard-boiled egg, and apple.