"It always nice to feel like you've succeeded at something," the writer and cook tells PEOPLE, "when maybe the expectation was that you wouldn't."
If you don’t know Alison Roman, you’ve at least seen her recipes on social media.
The writer and cook creates dishes so popular that they’re now known simply as #TheStew and #TheCookies. “It’s extremely flattering,” says Roman, 34, of having her chickpea stew and chocolate-chunk cookies go viral.
And she really means it. Because “going viral” for Roman — who will release her highly anticipated new cookbook Nothing Fancy on Oct. 22 — is more than just having people share or comment on her photo or video repeatedly in short span of time.
“They’re actually doing something,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “They’re working, and they’re creating something in their kitchen. So I feel like the meaning is a bit deeper.”
In May, Roman told ELLE that her new popularity has also served as a sort of satisfying revenge on an ex boyfriend she was dating during the production of her first cookbook, Dining In.
“I’ve done so much better career wise since we broke up,” she told ELLE. “There’s no way he doesn’t see that. There’s no way that he doesn’t open up his Instagram and see somebody’s made the stew and he’s like, ‘F—— Alison.’”
She clarified to PEOPLE that she has no resentment towards her ex: “[He] was actually very supportive of my career and believed in me — not that I still don’t enjoy the success part!” For Roman, that stick-it-to-them notion extends to any doubters from her past.
“It’s always nice to feel like you’ve succeeded at something,” she says, “when maybe the expectation was that you wouldn’t.”
While not everyone can inspire a hashtag with thousands of posts on Instagram, the sentiment is still relatable to anyone who’s ever left a job on sour terms or been through a breakup. “Like always wearing the best outfit to a party that you’re both going to be at,” adds Roman, who is now enjoying being single.
So is there pressure to reveal her next big hit? “I try not to think about it because if you try to accomplish that again, it will never happen,” she says. “I just try to make a recipe that tastes good and that people want to cook.”
But that’s not stopping us from guessing: People’s test kitchen predicts this roast-chicken recipe will be #TheChicken.
“It’s sweet, tangy, a little spicy and just downright special,” she says. “A chicken revelation!”
Get the full recipe below, and pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Alison Roman’s One-Pot Chicken with Caramelized Lemons
1 (4-lb.) whole chicken, giblets removed
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 shallots, halved lengthwise
1 lemon, cut into thick slices, seeds removed
4 to 6 Medjool dates, pitted
4 thyme sprigs, plus leaves for serving
1 cup water
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
Flaky sea salt, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken, breast side up, and press lightly so bottom of chicken is completely flat.
2. Cook, without moving, until the chicken is browned on bottom, 5 to 8 minutes.
3. Add shallots and lemon, making sure they come into contact with the bottom of pan. Cook over medium high until shallot mixture sizzles and is lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
4. Add dates, thyme and water. Sprinkle red pepper over chicken; cover. Roast in oven until dates are plump and chicken is almost cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Drizzle chicken with 2 tablespoons oil. Return to oven, and bake, uncovered, until liquid has reduced by half, chicken is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of breast registers 160° (20 to 30 minutes).
6. Let chicken rest in pot for 10 minutes; transfer to a cutting board, and carve. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and sea salt, and serve with roasted shallots, lemon slices and dates.
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour