Saturday, January 24, 2009

The perfect roast chicken

When Ryan and I were first living together and married, I tried to cook dinner most nights as we were very poor and needed to watch our spending. Back then I was an okay cook, I could manage a simple pasta meal, sometimes pork chops or tacos, but really nothing fancy. Back in those days I did manage to find a way to make something similar to chicken caccitore using inexpensive chicken thighs and canned tomatoes. I still make that recipe occasionally, although now there are fresh herbs and better ingredients involved.

In the years of marriage and having kids, I learned to try new things. I clearly remember the night I decided to make a blood orange and champagne sauce for fish one night. The sauce was good, the fish was good, but together they were not tasty at all. I also remember learning to make gravy the first time. I was roasting a turkey for a Mom's Club Thanksgiving meal and my dear friend Emily showed me an easy way to make gravy and have it work. I had tried in the past, but it was always too oily or it would separate on me, she taught me the right way.

In our first home I made my first crown roast, I experimented with meatball recipes, and homemade breads. Upon buying this house five years ago I believe my skills have become concrete, I think I am a pretty good cook and am comfortable using all sorts of fresh ingredients, making sauces and experimenting with flavors. To me, mastery of cooking means making food we all enjoy, and for me, the best meal in the world is roast chicken.

I make roast chicken a lot, and I think I have perfected my recipe, as I know we all have our own preferences. Just in case there is some random person who lands on this blog and is just starting out in the kitchen, here is how I make the perfect roast chicken (and stuffing).

Start with a good sized chicken, usually ours are about 6-7 lbs. Take out the inside bits and rinse the chicken very well, pat dry and place in a baking pan. Wash up.

Take a good handful of herbs, I usually use rosemary and chop. Mix with a stick (yes a stick) of butter. Then add a few tablespoons of Kosher salt, a couple turns of pepper and some minced garlic, about 2 cloves. Now separate the skin on the chicken off the body a bit and push some of the butter mixture under the skin from both the front and back. Add some more into the cavity of the chicken and rub the remaining butter mixture all over the outside if the bird paying close attention to the crevices by the legs. If you want a lemon or orange flavor, you can cut a lemon and add it into the crevice, I do this a lot when I plan to use leftovers for a lemon chicken soup.

Put the rubbed chicken into a hot 425 oven for 15-30minutes, until it is starting to look brown on top then turn down 350. Then tent with aluminum foil and finish cooking the bird, usually another 1 or 2 hours depending on size. In the last 20 minutes, I add the stuffing to the pan spreading around the bird if I am not making gravy, otherwise I cook the stuffing in the cast iron skillet. When the bird is cooked, remember to let it rest 15-20 minutes before carving.

My stuffing uses store bought cubed stuffing. I put butter, oil, diced carrots and diced onion into my cast iron skillet and cook on low until soft. Then add 1/2 cup white wine and cook 15 minutes more. Add a tablespoon of dry sage (more if fresh) and the cubed stuffing bread. Add chicken stock until the bread is wet, but not soppy and let cook on the stove top 15 minutes stirring often. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (some stock is salty so wait until this step to taste). If cooking with the chicken, add to the pan so the stuffing can take on some of the chicken flavor. If cooking separately, pour some of the drippings over the stuffing, add a few pats of butter and bake, stirring often to ensure the center isn't soggy.


No comments: