19 October 2011

Roasting a chicken . . .

Perfect Roast Chicken

. . . is really not very hard. Moist, flavorful, with perfectly crisp skin? Yes. Anyone with a sharp knife and a big pan can do this. :)

Here is what I learned from my mother on the topic of chicken-roasting: buy a good quality bird, keep it small, go with a short time at high heat, and use butter.

Classic Roast Chicken
 (thanks Mom)

1 whole chicken, 3-5 pounds
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon dried herbs*
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small lemon (optional)
splash of white wine (optional)

1) Melt butter and herbs together in small saucepan. Meanwhile, trim chicken: remove giblets from interior cavity and cut away excess fat at the tail end. Do not cut off any skin, though. Save giblets for later if you'd like to make stock. Using your fingers and a sharp paring knife, separate skin from breast (you should be able to slip your hand between the skin and meat) and cut small slits in skin over thigh joint.

2) Now stretch the loosened skin away from breast meat without tearing it, and pour a tablespoon or two of melted herb butter over exposed meat. Usually I do this in two installments, first buttering up the back half of the chicken and then the front half. Replace skin and flip chicken onto its back. Pour over some of  remaining herb butter, reserving a tablespoon or so in the pan. Salt and pepper this side of the chicken generously.

3) Place chicken (still on its back) in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and flip chicken very carefully, using tongs and a long meat fork, and pour remaining butter over top. This will help to produce a crispy skin that's to die for. Make sure you get some into slits cut over thigh joint. Salt and pepper this side generously and return to oven for 45 minutes.

4) This step, for lack of a better term, may be called the "hip check." Remove chicken from oven and using a long fork and a sharp knife, take a peek at joint between body and thigh. If juices run clear and meat is firm, with a hint of pink at deepest part of joint, chicken is done roasting; if juices are pink and/or meat is still soft and red, pop some tinfoil over top, roast 10 minutes more, and check again. It ought to be done by this time, but if you have a large bird, it may need even more roasting.**

5) Once chicken is finished in oven, remove to platter and keep covered with foil. You now have the option of making a pan sauce from the drippings and browned bits in the roasting pan. I would if I were you. If your pan can go straight over a burner, do so and turn it to medium-low. If not, scrape everything into a small saucepan and turn it to medium-high. Add a splash of white wine if you'd like, bring it all to a bubble, and let cook for a minute or two. Pour into pitcher. (Yes, this is mostly fat. Oh well.)

Chicken Stock

Once you have removed any leftover meat from the bone, toss carcass, giblets, skin, and any random bones lying about into a stock pot. I like to add trimmings from onions, celery, and carrots, which I store in the freezer in anticipation of stock-making; if you haven't any I would recommend adding half an onion and maybe a small carrot, chopped. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and just enough water to cover. Bring to boil, reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 12-24 hours on the back burner. You may want to add a bit more water halfway through due to evaporation. The long cooking time is so as to extract as much goodness and nutrition as possible from those bones. :) Let cool, then strain out bones, skin and vegetable pieces. Skim most of the fat from surface. Freeze or refrigerate.

If you are like me, i.e. harebrained, you may wish to do this in your crockpot. Then you do not need to worry about burning things or letting the stock boil over. Both of which I've done.

*Tarragon, sage, and thyme are all excellent.
**This is why you want to buy a small one. With a large chicken, by the time the thigh is done, the breast has begun to dry out.

{image: adashofsass, who trusses her chicken, but I don't mine}

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