ROAST CHICKEN – THE ACID TEST OF ANY RESTAURANT (OR COOK)

mixer

There will be home-made pasta in the New Year –              Christmas gift from Beez to Psycho Chef

Monday:                              Fried Potatoes – Leftovers

lamb-and-rice

Tuesday:                              Lamb with Persian Rice and Green Salad

arrabiata

Wednesday:                       Penne Arrabiata, Salad

roast-chicken

Thursday:                           Roast Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables

Friday:                                 Max and Molly’s wedding

Saturday:                            TJ and Cassie’s wedding

beez

Beez, on her own for the Steelers game – cooking a grand dinner for Billy, UFR and me

kraut

Sunday:                               Steelers versus Dolphins* and Sauer Kraut with ribs, chops, sausage and mashed potatoes

 

We continue our exploration of roasting with a classic technique for roasting that sitting duck of domestic animals, the chicken, because this dish should be in everyone’s repertoire, and because even an imperfectly roasted chicken is pretty good stuff.

“When you are at home, even if the chicken is a little burnt, what’s the big deal? “
– Jacques Pépin

Precisely.

But, while agreeing with Jacques, I am reminded that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.  And I will confess that my personal test for any restaurant is to taste its roast chicken.  If they can’t get that right they may be good, but they are not a great restaurant.  And it takes some getting right – brining or drying overnight – careful timing to cook the chicken and crisp the skin without drying out the flesh – accompaniments and saucing.

My favorite roast chicken of all time is served by Petit Louis restaurant in Roland Park, a suburb of Baltimore about a mile north of Johns Hopkins.  No doubt the ambience of Petit Louis – weathered wood floors, zinc bar, as well as its being the setting for many fine dinners with Andrew and his friends from college – lent itself to the enjoyment of this chicken.  But I can honestly say that I have never met its match, including at a fine restaurant in Manhattan devoted to roasting chickens raised on its own farm.

At Chez Stuarti, we fancy that we can roast up some mighty fine chicken, and have at least three great ways to do so – from Ina Garten’s method, stuffed with herbs, lemon and garlic to Thomas Keller’s, seared in a sauté pan which is then put into a hot oven to complete the roasting, to the method we used last week – suggested by a tip we found long ago in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and suggestions about cooking at differential temperatures from a number of folks.  The extra – roasted root vegetables, is from Cook’s Illustrated, and is my favorite accompaniment for roast chicken, unless I am at Petit Louis where they know how to fry frites (could not resist going polyglot on you) as well as anyone in America.

So here’s a great way to roast chicken, followed by the beautiful accompaniment of roasted root vegetables – you can do them all at pretty much the same time.

*So what’s with the constant reference to Pittsburgh sports teams?  It’s a ‘burgh thing and, if it bothers you, you’ll just have to live with it.  Moreover, those of us who sat through the freezing temperatures while the Steelers beat up the Dolphins, acquired a sense of accomplishment for doing absolutely nothing – and that is a rare thing in this meritocratic society.

SUPERIOR ROAST CHICKEN

(from a technique for brining and drying we found in the Post-Gazette years ago and adapting cooking instructions from friends, Anne Burrell, T. Keller, etc.)

roast-chicken-chicken

Listen up – This is a method which involves some work, but produces a delicious meal.  If you’re not up to it, you can have a passable meal by buying a rotisserie chicken from your super market and adding a salad and some sides.  There is nothing wrong with that – but you will have missed out on superior taste and the chance to provide a great meal for your family.  So pass up the rotisserie chicken, strap on your apron and take a shot.

Do Ahead:         The day before you’re planning to roast the chicken, brine and dry it as follows.  (You can also do this the morning of the day you’ll be cooking):

Pat the chicken as dry as you can get it.  Loosen the skin over the breast and the thighs.  (Basically, this involves sliding a forefinger between the skin and the flesh.  Try to loosen the skin all the down to and over the thighs.  With a little practice, this becomes easy.)  Turn the chicken on its breast and make some slits into the back on either side of the backbone.  This allows the fat to drain out and the skin to crisp.  Also, if you can find a sharp skewer, poke some holes into the fatty parts of the thighs and any deposits of fat you can see or feel on the breasts.  Try not to tear the skin.

Now mix together some kosher salt and maybe 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder and a little pepper and rub this all over the chicken.  You can also rub a little salt and pepper (no baking soda) under the skin.

Put the chicken on a plate and refrigerate overnight – we just put it in the laundry room, plenty cold when its 10 outside.

Ingredients                         Serves about 4

1 (3.5 – 4 lb.) chicken (ours was over 5 lbs.)
Kosher Salt
Baking Powder (3/4 – 1 tsp depending on the size of the chicken)
Ground Pepper

Special Equipment:

V-rack roasting pan insert.  This allows the fat to drip into a baking sheet and helps to crisp the skin.  If you don’t have one, place the chicken on the standard insert for the roasting pan, but be careful when you flip the chicken – some of the skin will adhere to the grid.  With the V-roaster (they are non-stick), this will not be a problem.

Cooking:

Preheat the oven to 450 F and adjust rack to lowest position.

Place aluminum foil in bottom of roasting pan and poke a bunch of holes into it – if you don’t do this, the foil will heat excessively and throw off the cooking time.

Place the chicken breast side down on the V-rack on top of the foil and roast for 25 minutes.

Flip the chicken to breast side up (A few paper towels will allow you to do this without burning your fingers) and roast for about 15 minutes longer.  Note:  we have a very hot oven, you might have to roast for another 25 minutes, if your oven is colder.  You can check by using an instant-read thermometer – you’re looking for a temperature of about 135F in the breast.

Now turn up the temperature in the oven to 500 (we went to 450, given the heat of our oven) and roast for about 10 minutes longer.  The breasts should register 160 and the thighs 175 on a thermometer.

Transfer your crisped and browned chicken to a cutting board to rest for 20 minutes, then carve and serve.

EXTRA                                                   Roasted Root Vegetables

(from Cook’s Illustrated 2016 Annual)

This recipe produces caramelized vegetables – a sweet-salty crusted skin.  It is worth doing with or without chicken.  Heck, it’s worth doing with or without plates or utensils.

Ingredients:

Yukon Gold Potatoes – 1.5 lbs. – cut into 2 inch pieces
Carrots – 12 oz – peeled and halved crosswise, thick halves halved lengthwise
Parsnips – 12 oz – peeled, halved crosswise, thick halves halved lengthwise
Vegetable oil
Teaspoon minced thyme
Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450F  (if you’re cooking the chicken – see above – you will already have done this)

Spray rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray (we simply poured a little Canola Oil on it and spread it around with a plastic baggie)

Arrange the vegetables with cut surfaces down in a single layer on the baking sheet – cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Place on lower rack, if possible.  If your roasting pan (with the chicken) doesn’t allow for this, place on another rack, as far offset from chicken roaster as possible.  Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove foil and set aside if you are serving with chicken.

When chicken is removed from oven and resting, drizzle the vegetables with any chicken juices from the roasting pan – or a little more oil.  Sprinkle with the thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat.  Place baking sheet with vegetables on upper rack and roast for 5 minutes.  Turn vegetables and continue to roast until browned at the edges – maybe 8 more minutes.

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