Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Classic Roast Chicken

Holy 2011, Batman! It's been almost a month since my last post, but that's what happens when the holidays come around I suppose. Don't worry though, I've been cooking up a storm - when I wasn't catching up on 5 1/2 seasons of Bones (my new obsession) or cramming 11 cookies into the VCR my mouth, that is. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season; mine was awesome and I always come back from home feeling recharged and grateful for my wonderful family.

One of the first things I wanted to make when I returned to the city was a roast chicken. It's easy, there's plenty of leftovers, and I had a few upcoming recipes I wanted to try that needed chicken stock (which I'll post about after this).

I've made roast chicken before, but this time I was thinking about brining. I've read so much about it, and I know it's supposed to make all the difference - but I wasn't sure for how long, and whether I could possibly get the same effect with just salting the bird several hours in advance. After researching dozens of recipes, I settled on rubbing the rinsed, patted-dry 3.75lb bird with a tablespoon of kosher salt, setting it on a platter and letting it hang out/dry in the refrigerator for about 3 hours (and another hour out of the fridge coming up to room temperature). In my research I also found that loosening the skin from the meat all over the bird would help the skin crisp up and not get soggy while cooking.

The result? A delicious, well-seasoned bird with crispy skin. I think this will be my go-to method from now on.

You're used to my bad-picture disclaimers by now. This one was taken on my phone and I had already started carving before I remembered to take a snapshot!

Classic Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs (if you use a kosher chicken, which is already salted/brined to remove impurities, DO NOT salt the bird in advance and follow the recipe after that)
1 T kosher salt
2 T butter, softened
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 one lemon
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh oregano (or 1 t if dry)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 t if dry)
1 small potato
1 sweet potato
1 large carrot
1 large parsnip

If salting the bird, shoot to do this in the afternoon before you cook that evening (ideally at least 4 hours in advance). Remove remove giblets and discard, then rinse all over and pat inside and out with paper towels till very dry. Use your fingers to loosen the skin in between the meat all over - the breasts, thighs, back, legs. Liberally rub kosher salt all over the inside and outside of the bird and under the skin, using about 1 T of salt (if your bird is smaller, you may use less). Place on a plate, uncovered, in the fridge for 3 hours. Remove from the fridge about half hour to an hour before you want to cook it to allow to come to room temperature.

While the chicken is coming to room temperature and you're preheating your oven to 350 degrees, chop the root vegetables into 1-inch pieces along with 2 cloves of the garlic. Distribute evenly on the bottom of a roasting pan - since I don't have a roasting rack, these veggies act as my roasting rack (I couldn't just say 'rack' there, lol) - but even if you have one, you could still do the veggies underneath. 

Using paper towels, wipe all visible salt off the chicken. Stuff the half of a lemon, the fresh herbs, and the remaining 3 garlic cloves inside the cavity of the chicken. Using your hands, rub the entire chicken - on the skin and underneath the skin - with the softened butter. Season with black pepper. IMHO trussing = a waste of time, not to mention I never have kitchen twine, so I didn't truss - and I actually think it helps crisp the skin better this way anyway. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, and roast in the oven for approximately 20 minutes per pound, plus 20 minutes, flipping the veggies/rotating the pan once, until skin is golden brown and the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is around 160 degrees. Remove from oven transfer chicken to a cutting board/platter and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before you DIG IN!

Note: Don't you dare throw away your leftover chicken bones and bits! Make soup, people! Throw the chicken parts into a pot with celery, onion, carrot, bay leaf, some peppercorns, cover with water, and simmer for a few hours!

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