Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How do You Roast a Chicken?

As it says in the Bible, "There are many ways to light Europe." So, too, are there many ways to roast a chicken. For a few years now, Edan and I have been experimenting with different roasting techniques and ingredients, trying to find the perfect roast bird. We started off using Edan's family's recipe, which calls for an incredible amount of salt, garlic slipped under the skin, and some lemon juice (stuffing the lemons into the cavity of the bird, of course). After reading Anthony Bourdain's constant warnings not to break the skin of the chicken, we stopped cutting little slits for the garlic. We tried Bourdain's recipe, which has butter, onions, garlic, and white wine, and it was good, but I missed the lemon juice. In the past few months, we've set out on our own, taking a little hints from one recipe while stealing ingredients from another. Once, I put rosemary, sage, and thyme all over the chicken (not bad), while another time, I filled the cavity with raw chorizo (not good, the chorizo never cooked). Last night, I think, was about the best we've done (although we can do better).

We started by squeezing some a lemon all over the chicken, thoroughly soaking it in the juice. Then we salted the shit out of the bird (this is imperative; the first time I made this recipe alone, Edan told me, "You'll think it's too much salt, but it isn't."), and gave it a good whack with fresh crushed pepper, as well. Next, we took some garlic and slipped it under the skin (being careful not to tear or cut the skin). Into the cavity went the lemon halves, the garlic, and some salt and pepper. Edan had gotten a big, thick piece of prosciutto from her work, one that was too thick to eat on a sandwich, so we chopped it up into little cubes, sprinkled some atop the bird, and threw the rest into the cavity (Isn't it great eating food that has a body cavity? Mmm.). Finally, we stuffed a few whole sprigs of rosemary into the chicken and trussed it.

We cooked the chicken for 30 minutes at 375, turning it several times so that it would cook evenly. After the 30 minutes, I jacked the oven up to 450, poured about 3/4 cup of white wine over the bird, and cooked it for another 30-35 minutes. What resulted was a terrific blend of our old salt/garlic/lemon recipe, Anthony Bourdain's classic roast chicken recipe, and some unique flavor from the prosciutto. The only change I would make is to sprinkle some fresh rosemary over the bird, rather than just stuffing it into the cavity. There really wasn't much rosemary flavor at all.

Which brings me to the titular question -- how do you roast a chicken? What great tips do you have? What strange and exotic ingredients do you use?

(I wish I had better pictures for you, but they all came out blurry; I need a better camera. You'll have to trust me when I say that the chicken looked like the hand of God descending to rub my belly.)


Kiki said...

Sounds like you're ready to try brine-ing (sp?) your chickens, Patrick--all the same ingredients are used, right down to the lemons and copious amounts of salt, but instead of filling body cavities, you just dunk the whole bird in a bucket. We tried it with a turkey last Thanksgiving, and it was tasty, indeed.

Christina said...

I cook it hot and fast and end up with the juiciest, most succulent bird you can imagine. I salt it heavily inside and out the night before I cook it; if I remember, I stick a bunch of fresh thyme under the skin and in the cavity. The next day, when I start thinking about dinner, I preheat the oven to 480 degrees. I throw my iron skillet on the fire, toss the bird in breast side up (so it already begins to brown on one side), then--using a mitt of course--place the skillet in the oven. There it stays for 30 minutes (for a smallish bird), while it spits and sputters. After 30 minutes, I--using the mitt again--pull it out and flip the whole bird with large forks. I stick in in another 10 minutes or so, depending on the size of the carcass. After those ten minutes, I flip the bird again, return to the heat, and let the skin crisp up over the breast and thighs for 5-10 minutes.

Juicy, tender, wrapped in crisp, salty skin. What isn't to love?

Maybe though, next time I've got to add the prosciutto as well. Yum.

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