Maxwell Ryan is the founder of Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, a daily web magazine all about home cooking and kitchen design. Visit PEOPLE.com every Wednesday for his spins on celebrity recipes, tips for cooking in a small space and much more.
Whether you’re hosting a small dinner party or cooking for the whole extended family, a roast chicken is one of the easiest dishes to make.
That said, while many people learned to cook their chicken with onions and vegetables in a roasting pan, I like to surprise guests by adding something sweet—and it always gets compliments.
My secret: diced pears, apples and raisins. As the chicken cooks down, so does the fruit, creating an absolutely delicious sweet side dish that can be served alongside your vegetables. Here’s how to do it in your kitchen:
1. Place your chicken in a roasting pan on top of a bed of thickly sliced onion discs (one large onion should be enough). This will lift the chicken off of the bottom of the roasting pan and allow it to cook more evenly.
2. Roll a lemon in your hand to soften it, then puncture it and stuff it inside the chicken. Tie the legs closed afterwards with butcher’s twine (available in most grocery stores).
3. Dice one pear and one apple. Spread the fruit around the base of the chicken.
4. Pour 1 cup of raisins on top of the pear and apple.
5. Cover chicken and fruit generously with olive oil and dust with salt. This will keep everything moist, and the salt will bring out the sweet taste of the fruit. Re-coat with oil halfway through roasting.
I love this trick with chicken—even my friends who don’t eat red meat never say no to a roast bird—but it works with other meats, too. Any cut with a lot of fat in it lends itself very, very well to a sweet and savory treatment. Now, go impress those dinner guests!