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A great "no frills" roast chicken? part 1

On average, I may roast a chicken about once or twice a week. I love it. It can be a perfectly humble dinner or one that can really impress the guests; with endless derivative dish ideas for your leftovers culminating with the carcass made into a stock or soup. What is not to like more about a food that can keep on giving -especially considering that some of the finer of these birds can retail for almost $30, so you gotta stretch that dollar.

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Which brings me to a question: "What is the most minimal way to achieve maximum results when roasting a chicken?" I am well aware that there are many avenues to travel when roasting a chicken as well as the articles and TV chef celebs ad infinitum, ad nauseum, la la la claiming to personally have unlocked the secret to "perfectly" roasted chicken.Honestly, I just want to know how I can simply roast a chicken with the least amount of work but with best desired results; I'm sure I'm not alone here and certainly there have to be a few folks out there who'd rather not muck around all night and simply find the "Occam's razor", if you will, to a delightful dinner of roasted chicken.It also wouldn't hurt that during my time entertaining guests, I can actually entertain, and not keep futzing about with the trifles of cookery. I want to drink wine too ya know.

Most recently as I was roasting a chicken, I realized that I have never fully "codified" a personal "tried and true" preparation that I follow, or at least one that others (my wife) can easily follow. Sure, I generally follow a basic, unwritten recipe of preparation but what I'm getting at is that with all the hundreds and hundreds of birds I've cooked out of my own house, I have never had the gumption to say: "Hey what is the easiest and best way for me to roast a perfect chicken just about every time?" Sounds odd, but I'm talking about a recipe that anyone with light cooking skills could avail themselves to pull off and not crumble to a process endeavored by the great Heston Blumenthal from his "In Search of Perfection" TV series. The problem I find is what constitutes the "best" or "perfect" or "easiest" may be just as subjective as one judges their favored art and with so many varying taste levels and skill sets for the average cook, I need to find a pretty stripped down "no frills" approach. To get what I'm looking for, I am endeavoring to cook many birds, even utilizing other folks' recipes, till I can find what I am looking for, or at least until I've sufficiently showcased the spectrum. Obviously this is going to take several posts if I really want to do this subject some justice, so bear with me, and anyone interested in offering their opinion and advice are always welcome; this is a large subject.

To begin, I need a definition what I am looking for in the ideal roasted chicken. To me, I'm thinking that, when finished, the bird exits the oven evenly roasted, with moist and tender meat, good flavor, not too chalky a texture, and sporting a lovely golden hued crispiness to it's skin. Ideally, this will be the target, but with the desired caveat of simplicity and ease of technique in the recipe, some trade-offs may need to be accepted.

So how do I start? There are many considerations to make: oven temperature, size of the bird, to brine or not, how to season, trussing, cook on the breast or the back, etc.I will try to start as simply as possible: a 3lb chicken(a high quality free range bird from Misty Knoll Farms VT) with no seasoning, stuffing, no trussing, simply dried out in the refrigerator and popped in the oven at 375F. I figured that by starting with a "control" bird, any variations I make, should have noticeable results, however slight. Here goes

Roast Chicken #1: the control

This is the control recipe. This recipe will serve as the basis from where I make adjustments and comparisons from. I just washed it dried it and roasted it with no seasoning.

Directions: Using tepid water, rinse the chicken thoroughly inside the cavity and on the outside. With paper towels, wipe down the bird inside and out removing all excess moisture. Next, put the bird into the refrigerator to dry out overnight or at least 8 to 10 hours. This simply could be a quick morning preparation that will be oven ready by the time you get home from work. I basically want the chicken dried in the refrigerator as roasting is a dry-heat process, and any moisture left on the bird will result in some steaming and prevent the dry and crispy skin that I am looking for.

Preheat your oven to 375. Take a heavy bottomed tray or cast-iron pan ( I used my LeCrueset braiser- an enamel coated cast iron, simply amazing) and cut a medium onion into 1/2in slices and use them as a base for the chicken (I've also used ribs of celery with success) to lay on to prevent it from burning and place into the oven for around an hour and a half. I credit the onion trick to Gordon Hammersley, who serves one of the best birds in the nation in his South End Boston landmark restaurant. Halfway through the cooking process I did rotate the pan 180 so as to help guarantee an evenly cooked bird, especially in an oven that may not guarantee an even heat. I pulled the bird out of the oven after around an hour and a half, when the temperature of the breast meat hit 160F and then rested it at room temperature for 25 minutes.

So how was it? Not too bad, for a moment I though that I could just stop there- and one could, but that isn't the point, I feel that we can do better. To quote my boss, "It was good because you used a high quality bird" and yes this is true, so let this be a lesson and go for the best quality you can find, because it will make a big difference .

So how did it taste?The chicken came out of the oven lightly golden, with some crispiness around the sides of the breast and the legs, leaving a not so golden look or crispy texture to the majority of the breast. After resting the bird uncovered for around 25 minutes at room temperature, I cut into the breast which yielded nice moist meat, light tack on the tooth, and exhibiting a wonderfully robust chicken flavor. This bird came out rather well, but I'm sure I could do better, and this certainly helped to support the belief that my question is attainable.

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 03/23/2017


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