Sunday, March 15, 2009

Roast chicken

The world never seems to stop clamoring for chicken recipes. Indeed, I’ve submitted a few of them on this blog already. When my partner, Peter, came home with a bargain-priced whole chicken a few days ago, I got to thinking about roast chicken.
The traditional expectation is for what you see above, namely a whole bird. What I did is the top picture. I'll explain...

Two important things come to mind: I always brine my chicken before cooking; dry breast meat(?) – who says you have to roast the chicken whole? I won’t include instructions for brining here, they can be find in a million variations. I will add only that I brined the chicken for about 16 hours. But 1-3 hours is plenty.

By cooking the chicken in pieces you can control the result. Just get the breast pieces out at 160° and the rest of it at 170°. Simple pimple.

I have an electronic thermometer which allows me to insert it and go watch Food Network until alerted by the remote beeper by my side.

I can’t point to any specific chef or recipe as my inspiration – there are far too many sources I have consulted over the years. My favorite flavors with roast chicken are sage, lemon and garlic. Dividing the chicken into pieces complicates things slightly, but you’ll see my solution.

I remember how fussy my mother was about the Thanksgiving turkey. She and my father would get up at the crack of dawn and get the bird in early. Then they’d cook it until they were sure it was dead. I always enjoyed it, but it was well into my adulthood when I discovered the joys of poultry that wasn’t overdone (not too mention the too-salty scalloped potatoes and the green bean casserole with those doggone canned onion rings).

I’m my own man in the kitchen now. I never, but never, read a recipe without the automatic response of “what can I do to tweak this?” I suppose it’s a curse and a blessing, but it’s one heck of a lot of fun.

Roast chicken
1 4-5 lb. fryer chicken, brined for several hours or up to a day
giblets, if included with the chicken
8 sage leaves
2-3 tbsp butter, softened
2 lemons, sliced thinly
2 tsp granulated garlic
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
(Please note: no salt needed after brining)

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Separate the legs, thighs, breasts (leaving the wing attached to the breast) and back. Save the back for stock or roast it (I prefer to roast it). Snip off the end joint of the wings.

If there are giblets, excluding the liver, rub them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast along side the rest of the bird.

Carefully separate the skin from the legs, thighs and breasts using your fingers. Insert 1 sage leaf and a slice of lemon under the skin of each leg and thigh and 2 each under the skin of each breast. Sprinkle some pepper under the skin of each piece and do the same with the garlic.

Rub the chicken pieces all over with the butter. Add more pepper to the outside of the chicken, to taste of course.

Put a flat rack on a shallow baking pan and spray it with Pam. Place 1 or 2 lemon slices on the rack for each chicken piece and put the chicken pieces, skin side up on top of the lemon.

Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350°, insert a temperature probe into the thickest part of a breast (adjacent to where the wing is attached). Continue roasting until the internal temperature of the breast is 160°, about 25 minutes more.

Remove the breasts from the oven and tent with foil. Cook the remaining chicken for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.

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