Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Roasting Chicken...

Of all the cooking techniques that I've learned, I think one of the most important is roasting a whole chicken. It's really easy, really tasty, and one chicken can lead to multiple meals. Sure, a lot of grocery stores offer rotisserie chickens and they're great, but roasting my own means the chicken's never met a heat lamp or tray.

I've been using Thomas Keller's recipe, which is simple and requires no stuffing. I find that the chicken actually cooks more evenly and, without having to cook through stuffed onions or citrus, the faster cooking time result in really moist and tender meat.

Here's the recipe, which is also in the Bouchon cookbook:

Thomas Keller's Favorite Simple Roast Chicken

My trussing skills aren't perfect, but it works for me. The key is keeping the drumsticks together and the wings tucked into the chicken's body and under the drumsticks. Keeps the wing tips from burning, the breast meat as moist as possible, and the drumsticks from burning and/or drying out. The salt/pepper forms a gorgeous crust on the skin. Remember that drying the chicken before seasoning and trussing is key, because the existing moisture in the meat will turn to steam during cooking, which pushes the skin away from the meat. That separation allows the skin to crisp perfectly, which wouldn't happen if there was excess moisture on the skin. Roasting pans work fine, but with a small roasting chicken, I find that a stainless steel skillet works perfectly. I use thyme when I have it, but right now, we have a rosemary plant, so that's what goes on the chicken.

Keller demo'd roasting a chicken on the "Techniques" episode of No Reservations. He uses a large French skillet to hold the chicken. He also recommends bringing the chicken to room temperature, which I'll leave up to y'all. Personally, I leave the chicken out for about an hour (wrapped) before prepping and roasting it, which takes the chill off and ensures more even cooking. With that said, I understand that food-safety concerns might make this a dealbreaker for some. The disclaimer here is that it's my personal preference to do so and the chicken can be roasted without this particular step.

When it comes to handling the chicken itself, I keep it simple. Secondary containment, keeping my work area clean, and making sure my hands are clean before and after handling the chicken are all that I do.

Secondary containment: The chicken is always in a big mixing bowl until it's ready to be transferred to the roasting pan. I remove the gizzards, rinse it out, and dry it out in the bowl. That way, all fluids go into the bowl, not my countertop, and I can move the bowl easily between the counter and sink for rinsing.

Hands clean: Soap and water before and after, but during, I make sure I have paper towels so, if I need to, I can wipe my hands dry before continuing to work with the chicken.

Work area: If there's any spillage, I immediately wipe it up with a paper towel. I use a separate cutting board for meat. When all's done, a once-through of all surfaces with a disinfectant wipe.

Before roasting, it's best to remove the wishbone, which is basically the bird's collarbone. It's pretty straightforward, but it's even easier if you use scissors to trim a bit of the meat away from the bone. Removing the wishbone makes carving the breast meat super-easy.

Once the chicken is done, check the temperature at the breast and leg. I find that 145-150°F is great for breast meat and 160-ish°F is good for the leg. Of course, they often don't reach those temps at exactly the same time, but if you use an oven thermometer and ensure the oven's at 450°F, then 55 minutes is about right. Definitely let it rest before carving.

I think the steepest part of the learning curve was carving. I'm pretty good at it now, but it takes a couple of birds to completely get the hang of it. I love to serve roasted chicken with red rice, which was a childhood favorite. The chicken usually results in dinner for me and D., then lunch the next day for me, and the carcass is used to make broth.

This particular time, we tossed in a bunch of stuff from the fridge and freezer. The chicken carcass, beef bones, onions, corn cobs, spices. The resulting broth was used to poach chicken drumsticks and served in my version of pho ga. Clearly not authentic, but tasty.

Now go forth and roast!

3 bites:

Kim in the Kitchen said...

Thank you, Marie, for all the great tips! We are back to the world of meat and have roasted two chickens so far using the same Ina Garten recipe I've always used. It's good, but I will try Keller's next time. It looks like much less work...except for that removing the wishbone part... I'm not sure if I can handle that. Of course I'm terrible at carving, so maybe it will help. Also, I've never trussed or let it come to room temperature, so I'll have to do that next time too. Boy, I was a chicken roasting mess! Oh! And... I've roasted the chicken upside down before! More than once! Ha! What a mess!

Darlene said...

I love the advice for second containment. My biggest fear when dealing with anything with chicken juices is the contamination issue.

It's been a while since I roasted a chicken and I look forward to cooler weather so I can implement some of your advice.

The Cilantropist said...

I have been loving Thomas Keller's recipes lately (as you can surely see from my blog!) and I was thinking about trying out his chicken. I have a recipe/technique that I picked up from Ina Garten that has always been a true winner so it is tough for me to change! But, he is the master after all. ;) Lovely work with this post!

3 bites