Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Roasted Chicken

We'll start with the recipe first. I'm addicted to roasting large chunks of meat. It's relatively easy, and the couple of hours I put towards the roasting process always result in at least 3 days' worth of food. Besides that, today I bought a 4 pound chicken at Kroger for $4, which is a great deal. The one thing that still baffles me is how exactly to carve the bird once it's cooked. If it was just me, I'd stand over it and pick of what I wanted to eat while gnawing on a Sister Schubert's roll, never really worrying about slicing a perfect piece of breast meat, or correctly removing the leg, just barbarically enjoying a big, roasted, bird. But, it's not just me, so I always let either Dave or Rose get their meat first and then I go back and carve out some meat the best I can, which inevitably results in a pretty pitiful, destroyed looking bird. I certainly don't care, as it tastes yummy regardless.

Still. Roast chicken is tasty and versatile, and I'd serve it to company if I knew how to slice it correctly. Here's what I do:

Before beginning with the raw chicken, take a moment to do some prep work that will save you from contaminating your kitchen with raw chicken germs. Prepare a few prep bowls/small measuring cups with the following: (1) extra virgin olive oil, (2) salt (3) black pepper (4) some sort of dried herb; my favorite is Italian, (5) whole cloves of garlic, 4-5, (6) 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped, and (7) one coarsely chopped carrot. Also set out your roasting pan (don't have a shiny, pretty roasting pan? Find any baking dish that has some sides, like a 9 x 13 pan), that's been sprayed down with a good coating of nonstick cooking spray. Also set out a plastic cutting board large enough to hold your chicken. Finally, preheat the oven to 400.

Once your prep work is done, then take a whole chicken (defrosted if you're starting with frozen), and remove from plastic in the sink. (It's best if you start with a clean sink, I should add.) Pull out the neck/giblets/guts that are leftover. Allow yourself a moment to be thoroughly grossed out by what you just did, but be thankful you didn't also have to pick out a chicken from your brood out in the backyard to personally sacrifice for the meal, snap its neck and remove its feathers/drain its blood like our grandmothers did. Proceed, after saying a quick prayer to bless your ancestors for living through such a difficult life. Rinse the cavity and outside with cold running water. Place on a plastic cutting board, and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the interior cavity with salt, pepper and herbs. Then stuff it full with the garlic, celery and carrots. Lemons and oranges also work really well as aromatics, if you don't have celery/carrots on hand. Then, rub the outer cavity with olive oil, and salt, pepper, and any leftover herbage. Place the bird on a rack if you're using a pan with such, or just place it in the bottom of the pan if you don't have a rack that fits. Wash your hands really well.

Before placing the roasting pan in the oven, pour some chicken stock and white wine, if you have any, in the bottom of the pan, maybe about 1 cup total. This will help prevent the yummy drippings (think: future gravy) from sticking to the pan and burning. Roast the chicken at 400 for about 25 minutes, then without opening the oven, reduce heat to 375 and roast for 30 more minutes. If you haven't already, pour yourself some of that leftover white wine to keep you entertained until the bird is done. After it has roasted for about an hour, check it - pour more liquid in the pan if it's drying up/burning, and cover with tin foil if the skin is becoming too burnt/crispy. Also wouldn't hurt at this point to use your meat thermometer to check the temperature. Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast (read with a meat thermometer) reads 165, which usually takes me anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes, depending on the oven.

After the bird is cooked, remove from the pan and allow to sit on the counter, covered with tin foil, for at least 5 minutes before digging in. Trust me; helps the juices redistribute and results in a yummy chicken. Besides, 5 minutes is all you need to make up a quick pan sauce, using the leftover chicken drippings that have been poured into a small saucepan and cooked down with the addition of a "slurry" - which is about 2 Tablespoons softened butter combined with 2-3 Tablespoons flour. Whisk together rapidly, cooking over medium high heat. This pan sauce/gravy is best served on top of the sliced chicken, and as a dunking sauce for the aforementioned Sister Schubert's rolls.

I had some ideas for what I might blog about in addition to the roast chicken recipe, but I forgot what I was going to say. And, I'm tired. And, I need to start on Chapter 7 - Discussion & Conclusion. I am elated to have a "Chapter 7" file on my trusty flash drive. And elated to have chowed down on a roast chicken with Rice-a-Roni and frozen green beans for dinner.

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