Sunday, February 9, 2014

Imprecise Perfection: Roast Chicken Basics

New to the world of eating meat, I am not very good at eating meat off the bone. But the real question is: can I cook something on the bone and carve it so it does not look like a National Geographic cover story on lions' feeding habits? That was what I set out to answer this week with a roast chicken.

Now, after extensive research on a topic that involves more new vocabulary for me than a physiology course (trussing and innards, anyone?),  I realized that I could save that lesson for another day. I found a number of far more important similarities between a variety of trusted roast chicken recipes. The "recipe" I used drew inspiration from Alton Brown, Jamie Oliver, the Pioneer Woman, and the Kitchn. I found the imprecision to be refreshing, and the results to be mouth watering.

Here are your basic steps:

1. Clean it (aka: take out the bag of giblets from the cavity)
2. Dry it.
3. Rub it down with yummy stuff: herbs, citrus, salt/pepper, and fat (above and below the skin).



          Make a slit in the skin to get underneath as well.
4. Stuff it with yummy stuff (see #3, plus alliums).
5. Put it on top of hunks of root veggies.



         The goal is to have the chicken sit an inch or so 
      above the pan so it doesn't drown in its own juices.
6. Put in the oven at 400° for a little over an hour (for 4 lbs), until the skin is crispy and the inside is 165° (safe chicken temp).
7. Let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
8. Serve or save roasted veggies.

             Let some of the fat drain on a paper towel 
                so the veggies still count as veggies.
9. Mix pan drippings with wine and stock to make a sauce. Cook in a pan until reduced to the thickness you like. Whisk in flour to make it gravy.

                          Looks like modern art.
10. Figure out how to carve it and serve!

            Nobody needs to know the struggle 
                       that went into this.

There it is-- imprecise, messy (you are literally massaging a raw bird with butter), and versatile.

Below I will share the ingredients I used for each step, but feel free to play around with different flavor combinations to make your roast chicken your own.

Step #3: Yummy stuff rub-down
  • 1 stick butter, softened with the following mixed in (this is called a compound butter and makes life better in all ways)
  • lemon zest
  • lemon juice (1/2 lemon worth)
  • rosemary, savory (the store was out of thyme), and sage (finely chopped)
  • salt & pepper
(Other nice pairings: orange with cinnamon and cloves, lime with coriander and cayenne)

Step #4: Yummy stuff stuffing
  • 2-3 lemons, quartered and peels scored for extra flavor emission
  • rosemary, thyme, and sage (still in their sprig/leaf form)
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
Step #5: Hunks of root veggies (to raise the chicken an inch above the pan)
  • onions/shallots (peeled)
  • carrots
  • celery
  • potatoes
Step #10: Carving Inspiration

For the dramatic version, watch this:

For a much more peaceful version, watch this:

As a disclaimer, both of these make the process look much easier than it is. Don't worry-- it still tastes amazing.

That's all, folks. Serve with salad to make it lighter or biscuits to go crazy. Or both to feel a yin and yang balance. Now that's a new spin on a balanced meal.