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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Great Roast Chicken Trials

For various reasons (farmers' market not in season, all the other reasons why one should avoid eating too much red meat), we've been eating more chicken lately. There have recently been a couple of intriguing takes on the roast chicken in Cook's, so I decided to try them, along with the method I used to use when I had a great farmers' market source for poultry, and decide which one we liked best.

The first method was for French roast chicken in a pot--the perfect opportunity to use the robin's egg blue Martha Stewart Collection enameled cast iron dutch oven I got for Christmas. Before I had even tried the other methods, I was leaning toward choosing this one as the default, because it's dead easy.
French Roast Chicken in a Pot

4.5-5.5 lb chicken
kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
1 med onion, chopped medium
1 rib celery, chopped medium
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig rosemary

Preheat oven to 250. Remove giblets from chicken, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Bring oil to just smoking over medium-high heat in dutch oven (mine is 7.5 qt). Add chicken, breast side down, and put vegetables and rosemary (I think I'll try thyme next time) in pot around it. Brown well, then flip over and brown the backside, stirring veggies occasionally. Then cover with foil and put the lid on (Cook's says the foil helps create a tighter seal), and pop in the oven for 80-110 minutes, until the chicken is 160 in the breast and 175 in the thigh.

Like I said, dead easy. It was also deliciously moist. Cook's says to strain the veggies out of the exuded juices, degrease, add a little lemon juice and serve alongside the chicken, but I skipped this. I did strain and degrease the juices (about a cup), but I saved them to add to the stock I plan on making in a few days.

The next trial was of Crisp-Skinned Roast Chicken, from the March-April 2008 Cook's. From the get-go this one has a disadvantage in that it requires some advance prep, always hard for me to remember to do (I ended up doing it at about 1 am last night--definitely not ideal). But it promised ultra-crisp skin, which I knew would be a big hit with Number One.
Crisp-Skinned Roast Chicken

3.5-4.5 lb chicken
1 T kosher salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t ground black pepper

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut four one-inch slits in the back skin of the chicken (alongside the spine). Use your finger or a wooden spoon handle to loosen the skin, front and back and legs. Then flip it over and use a skewer to poke 15-20 holes in the skin of the breasts and drumsticks. Pat dry again. Sprinkle salt mixture over bird and rub it in with your hands. Put chicken in roasting rack in pan (they say rimmed cookie sheet, but frankly my roasting pan is smaller) and refrigerate, uncovered, 12-24 hours.

Put oven rack on lowest position and preheat oven to 450. Tear off a sheet of foil big enough to mostly cover the bottom of your roasting pan, and poke holes in it with a paring knife about 1.5 inches apart. Put the foil loosely in the pan, and put the rack on top of it. Flip chicken breast side down, and roast for 25 minutes.

Take pan out of oven and flip chicken onto its back (they say to use wads of paper towels, but I used my turkey-flipping forks and they worked just great). Put it back in the oven and roast until the breast is 135 degrees, about 15-25 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, and roast until the skin is brown and crisp, and the temperature is 160 in the breast and 175 in the thigh, 10-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, 20 minutes, then serve.

Once again, we had a deliciously juicy chicken. I wasn't blown away by the skin, though. Yes, it was pretty brown and pretty crisp, but there was just the slightest hint of chemical aftertaste from the baking powder, and it was a bit more hands-on and time-consuming in the prep than I would have liked. I haven't fully polled the boys, but I suspect this will not become a regular (since as the cook I have more votes).

Here is the chicken the night before, after rubbing with the salt mixture.

Here it is the next afternoon, after about 16 hours in the fridge drying out.

And here are the remains after we were done eating (sorry no pic of the golden glory!).

I served it with orange and green mashed potatoes (the kale was actually dark purple, not green, and stained the onions in the sauté) and clementines,

and Ganache-Filled and Frosted Cupcakes for dessert. Yum.

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Blogger Swizzies said...

Woman, your food makes me drool.

That second chicken is way too high maintenance. Why not just buy kosher, or throw one in a brine, and roast it? I like that recipe. :-)

What is UP with those cupcakes?? HTH do you find time to do all this...you do really have three children, right?

February 20, 2008 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger Adriana Velez said...

Perfect timing! I just brought home a poulet rouge from the coop and planned to roast it today. I usually roast at 275 degrees for about 3 hours, turning ever 20 minutes. But I'm up for something new, so I'll try #1.

Mmmmm, roast chicken on a cold, February day.

February 21, 2008 at 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rarely brine anything because of Mavis's high blood pressure. And even brining is more work than I typically like to do. Method #2 specifically says not to brine, since it will keep the skin from getting crisp, and the dry-salting seasons the meat just as well (it was definitely not bland).

The cupcakes were actually super easy. I made the ganache and the boiling-water/cocoa mixture the night before, and then assembling and baking them was a snap. I used my smallest scoop to portion out the ganache for the filling (instead of a teaspoon as specified in the recipe), and a ladle to fill the cups (instead of transferring the batter to a spouted measuring cup).

Oh, and as I think I've posted here before, I think it's way, way simpler to make ganache in the microwave instead of heating the cream on the stove and pouring it over the chocolate. For this recipe, I put both chocolate and cream in a glass bowl and microwaved for two one-minute stints on high, stirring in between. Then I popped the lid on the bowl and put it in the fridge.

February 21, 2008 at 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for cooking with three kids, well, I don't post about the times we get takeout. And this week the bebe has been in a growth spurt, which meant that Tuesday she took two four-hour naps. Number Two's taken a couple of naps this week, too. I had originally planned on roasting this chicken on Monday, or maybe even Sunday (I forget), but wasn't able to make the time for all the needed prep until Tuesday night. So we had other dinners (sausage with pearl couscous, takeout pizza) until I could get it together and pull it off. Don't for a second imagine that I could cook like this every night. A week when we only get takeout once is noteworthy.

February 21, 2008 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Hi, Emily B. here. Thanks for the test kitchen comments on roasted chicken!

Did you notice a special flavor with the cupcakes from using mayonnaise? I have not heard of that before as an ingredient for chocolate cake.

Bebe is sooo cute. Mine rolled to his back today--weird to have him growing up but fun too.

February 22, 2008 at 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard of cakes using mayonnaise before, but not one in which the mayonnaise provides *all* the eggs, oil, and acid for the recipe. But it does seem like a nice shortcut, and has the side benefit of making a batter that's safe for everyone to snitch, including those who are immune-compromised. ;) But no, they didn't taste funny at all, just delicious.

Hooray for macho boy rolling over! The bebe hasn't done it quite all the way yet. Does he have more hair than he did at Christmas?

February 23, 2008 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger jana said...

I'm trying roast chicken recipe #1 today with thyme. We'll see if it's a winner with my crew :)

February 24, 2008 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger jana said...

The results: abolutely super moist and amazing flavor! I willl definitely do this recipe again :)

February 25, 2008 at 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! Glad it worked out so well. Adriana, how was yours?

February 25, 2008 at 1:13 PM  

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