Monday, July 18, 2011

Roast Chicken

You know, I've been roasting birds as long as I've been cooking for myself (so, let's say for more than twenty years). I've roasted them in a toaster oven, a convection oven, a regular oven; I've trussed and not trussed, basted and not basted, seasoned, buttered, oiled, herbed, brined, and flipped them. (I also went through a phase of roasting them in paper bags, but that's more steaming than roasting, really). There are no doubt many other things to do with them, but I think I have some varied experience. What I've learned is this: it is very, very hard to make a bad roast chicken, and also very hard to improve on a bird roasted in the least fussy way possible. So now I: never truss, never flip, never baste, and roast at 400 degrees till done. To this procedure I add whatever I have around: garlic in the cavity, preserved lemon or butter or olive oil on the skin, herbs under the skin, vegetables in the pan, etc. But seriously, if you do nothing but stick a chicken in a hot oven until it's done, you'll end up with a delicious and comforting dinner that turns, in the following days, into sandwiches, stock, risotto, etc. It's like magic.

On the other hand, if you want to know what roast chicken is like in an ideal world, go to Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and order their spit-roast chicken over bread salad for two.

Last night we had roast chicken with preserved lemon and oregano on the skin, carrots and potatoes in the pan. Sauteed okra on the side.


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Naunihal said...

Do you butterfly or just roast as is? Roasting pan or cast iron pan?

Naunihal said...

The reason I ask is that I've never been any good at roasting a chicken myself, it always looks complicated and the one time I tried it I filled my house with chicken smoke and my kitchen with chicken grease. Still, it's a skill I would like to acquire because, as you point out, it yields many dividends over the course of the week.

Heather said...

Hi N! I roast a whole bird, as is. If I butter the skin I dry it off first. I use an enameled cast iron roasting pan these days, but have also used ceramic and glass dishes and everything seemed just the same. Chicken smoke and grease sounds like a too-high temperature (though some people maintain that smoke and grease are the price of a properly roasted bird). What you might try is low and slow: two hours at 350 rather than one at 425, say. Don't give up! Roast chicken will not fail you.