Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roast Chicken

                            Everyone’s talking ‘bout chicken:
                                    Chicken’s a popular bird;
                        Anywhere you go, you’re bound to find,
                            A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird.” *

 (listening: Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful

A roast chicken is a beautiful meal, perhaps one of the most requested when we’re all together. Carved and brought to the table with its roasted vegetables, the juices bound together into a gravy or sauce, it’s an excuse for mashed potatoes (never enough) and while you're at it, don’t forget the crispy skin on the side for my oldest daughter who discovered its pleasures early in her life.

Years ago after one of my brothers moved into his first apartment he called home to ask, “How hot do you cook a chicken?” Back then, 325 degrees was roasting temperature for a chicken.  Today, 450 degrees is the norm.

Roasting a chicken requires little actual work; the oven does it all. You just have to monitor it as the cooking progresses to make certain that nothing is roasting too much, you know, burning. Having said that, I have never experienced any such problems save for a stray vegetable or two. If you see any problems, reduce the heat.

Whole chickens come in various sizes. For this recipe I used a chicken that weighed almost five pounds so your cooking time may be different. Always check the temperature of your chicken with an instant read thermometer. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, without touching bone. The temperature should reach 160 degrees before it’s removed from the oven.  As the chicken rests, it will continue cooking and reach at least 165 degrees, the required ending cooking temperature. Whenever I roast a chicken, I always look for it’s leftover potential-the chicken stock and the meals made with the leftover chicken. I also roast the chicken on a bed of vegetables which are part of the meal, equally as good as the chicken. While this recipe reflects the amount of vegetables for two people, it’s easy enough to extra more when cooking for more people. And don’t be limited by the choice of vegetables, either.

You could skip the mashed potatoes (why would you?) and roast peeled quartered potatoes along with the chicken.

                                    You can boil it, roast it, broil it
                                         Cook it in a pan or a pot
                              Eat it with potatoes, rice, or tomatoes,
                              A chicken’s still what you got, boy! “*

 Roast Chicken:

One roasting chicken
For two people, I used:
3 carrots
1 large onion
6 to 8 cloves garlic
2 parsnips
several sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary
an additional carrot and onion half for the cavity of the chicken
salt and ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 & ½ cups chicken broth (you can use canned broth)
white wine, optional
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Cut the carrots crosswise in half, then cut the pieces lengthwise into equally thick pieces, about 3” in length. Peel the onion. Leaving the root end on cut the onion in half lengthwise and cut the halves into two or three lengthwise pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and keep whole. Peel the parsnips and cut them similar to the carrots.

3. Place all of the vegetables into the bottom of a roasting pan. Season the vegetables with some salt (about 1 teaspoon) and ground black pepper. Scatter the herbs among the vegetables. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables. Set aside.

4, Remove the chicken from its wrapper. Remove the giblets inside the cavity and drain any liquid inside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Remove any excess fat from the cavity. To make carving easier you may choose to remove the wishbone; if it breaks while you are removing it be careful since the bone pieces will be sharp. (You can consult a video demonstration by Jacques Pepin to see how to remove the wishbone).  Season inside the chicken with some salt and ground black pepper; place the additional vegetables and additional herbs into the chicken cavity. Truss the chicken with a length of cotton twine or alternately, tie the legs together. Place the chicken into the roasting pan over the vegetables. Season the chicken with salt (1 to 2 teaspoons) and ground black pepper. Drizzle the chicken with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the chicken into the oven. After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, check to see that there is some liquid (rendered chicken fat) in the pan to help the vegetables roast; if the pan appears dry, add about ¼ cup chicken broth or some wine. Continue monitoring the progress of the chicken every 20 to 30 minutes, adding additional broth if necessary.

5. Roast the chicken until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees and the juices run clear. The chicken I used was almost 5 pounds and took 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook.

6. Remove the finished chicken from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover with a piece of aluminum foil; let rest the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. If the vegetables aren’t tender, you can lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and return the roasting pan with vegetables for additional cooking.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a serving dish; cover and keep warm.  Place the roasting pan onto the stove. Over medium-high heat, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove roasting pan from the heat and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Spoon off any fat on the top of the cooking liquid and discard. Add an additional ½ cup broth to the liquid in the saucepan. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons cornstarch with remaining chicken broth; mix until smooth.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in some of the cornstarch mixture. Place pan back over heat and whisk as it comes to a boil and thickens. If the sauce needs additional thickening, off the heat whisk in some more of the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again. If sauce has thickened too much, thin it with some more stock or water. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

6. Carve the breast meat from the chicken and place onto a warm platter. Remove the legs and place onto the platter, if serving. Serve with the roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and the sauce.

*”A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bird” by Cab Calloway

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