Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Breakfast, Lunch, Chicken

When I was a freshman I would pass a restaurant on the way to an after-school program I volunteered at that had a sign out front – Breakfast, Lunch, Chicken.  No and, no dinner, just chicken.  I loved it.  They served breakfast, yup, lunch, sure and oh chicken. It still makes me chuckle to think about it. 
Now, Joe loves roast chicken.  It may be his favorite meal, although claiming an all-encompassing favorite meal is tricky and forces a commitment I just don’t think anyone can rightfully make.  But he sure does love roast chicken.  I like to roast chicken for the leftovers and usefulness a poultry carcass can offer.  Stock, soup, chicken pot pie, chicken salad, chicken and biscuits – the list goes on.  So for the price of one chicken you can get approximately 3 meals out of it.  I like those economics. 
I think here it is important to note that an organic chicken will roast and taste much better than a conventional chicken.  Yes the price is higher and the bird smaller, but it will make all the difference in this recipe.  Conventional birds have a lot of fat on them.  So much that I doubt this recipe would turn out well if everything was soaked in that much partially warmed chicken fat.  I don’t like to tell people what to eat when it comes to organic, free-range, local, vegan, sustainable or whatever because everyone has a budget to deal with and their own ideas and feelings in regards to food.  But, in this instance if you purchase an organic bird and taste the results of roasting it in this manner – you will not be disappointed.  (And you may not go back to conventional whole birds).
It has taken me a few tries to perfect this, or at least to feel confident enough to share it with you.  The greatest mistake I make in roasting chicken is to not give myself enough time.  I would like to think that I can come home from work, wash dishes, clean up and roast chicken all in about 2 hours – nope.  It always turns out undercooked and not nearly as wonderful, as when I give the chicken its proper time.  So the next time you have 4 hours – yes 4 hours (it might be more like 3 and a half) before dinner needs to be done – roast a chicken.
Don’t let the 4 hour time scare you; you will only be active for hmm about 30 minutes of it.  We found out this method from Thomas Kellers’ Ad Hoc at Home and it really changed the way I roast chicken.  It’s very simple and really, really makes some outstanding chicken.

Roast Chicken and Vegetables
As adapted from Ad Hoc at Home

If you don’t have kitchen twine and the thought of trussing a chicken (think poultry bondage) scares you, don’t worry about it.  Just try to cross the chickens legs and use a toothpick to pin the flap of skin up over the cavity of the bird.  And if you don’t want to do that – don’t even worry about it.

For the Chicken
1 whole chicken
¼ large onion, cut in chunks
2 cloves garlic, smashed (not chopped)
1 bay leaf
½ lemon, cut into 4 pieces
2 sprigs Fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. dried rosemary
Salt and Pepper

For the Vegetables
Remainder of large onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 medium carrots, cut into ½” slices
2 stalks celery, cut into ½” slices
6 or 7 small red potatoes, cut in half
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½” slices
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into ½” chunks
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
1 Tb olive oil
¼ tsp. dried rosemary
¼ tsp. dried marjoram (if you have it)
Salt and pepper
¼ c white wine (optional)

First, take the chicken out of its packaging, rinse and pat dry.  Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. (This is not long enough to worry about food poisoning)

After about 45 minutes, begin prepping the vegetables and preheat the oven to 475°.  Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Place the onion pieces, garlic, lemon, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary inside the cavity of the chicken.  Tuck the wings of the chicken underneath the breast, you may have to break the wings in order for them to stay there.  If trussing the chicken, take a piece of twine about 3 feet long and move it under the middle of the bird.  Next bring each side of the twine up over the wing joints, and along the bottom edge of the chicken breasts, crossing over at the opening of the cavity – this will plump up the chicken breast. Next, take the twine and wrap them over and then under the legs tying the legs together and closing off the cavity.  Make sure the little tail flap is tucked up underneath the legs, so that the cavity is completely closed. 

Rub the outside of the chicken with another sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Place the remaining vegetables in a cast iron skillet, or heavy roasting pan.  Toss with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.

Place pan on the center rack in oven with the legs and bottom of the bird facing inwards and cook for 45 minutes.  Then, turn the oven down to 400° and continue to cook for about another hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked. Turn the pan at the time you lower the temperature so that the breast is now facing the inside of the oven.  About 20 minutes into the lower heat cooking time, check the vegetables to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan, if not pour in white wine and continue to cook.

The chicken is done when I thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 160°, and the juice from the chicken runs clear.  You should also have a nice reduced chicken gravy in the pan with the softened vegetables.   Allow chicken to rest for about 15 minutes before carving and serve with vegetables and pan juices.

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