Sunday, May 23, 2010

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

I was thinking that for a blog with "gristle" in the title, this was getting a bit veg-heavy. I intend to remedy that in the coming days, starting now.

I've had mixed luck with roasting chickens, but have been steadily improving in the last year or so. Most recently, I reached a new peak when my brother-in-law was here in April. The key to that near-triumph (he was impressed, which counts for something) was my having brined the chicken, which I have avoided in the past. A divisive topic, brining, but I think it tends to lend a net benefit to the chicken. 12 hours is what is typically recommended, but for a roast chicken I'm thinking 8-10 hours for the future (just a matter of taste). Anyway, to try and top my April chicken, I got a 4-pound pastured roaster chicken. I brined it for 12 hours, and then proceeded to the new prep techniques. Place chicken in sink.

Boil water in a kettle, and pour boiling water all over chicken to scald. The photo doesn't fully capture the creepiness of the effect - the skin actually contracts and starts tightening as if alive. This scalding step helps separate the skin from the fat and meat, and helps ensure a crisp skin on the roast.

Your scalded chicken then sits in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. This helps dry out the skin, again to help ensure crispiness. By the time you prepare to roast, the skin should be lightly yellowed and waxy-looking.
Veggies for the roast - since it's spring, I threw some radishes in with the carrots and celery. Toss with thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Quarter and add some red potatoes at the last minute.
Truss the chicken. Work your fingers under the skin on both breasts, and push in some softened butter. I also added one sage leaf for each breast - thereby letting the oven make some sage butter to baste the bird.

Rub the skin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. If you're so inclined (I was), tie some rosemary and sage leaves to the trussed chicken. Place on rack above vegetables, backside-up. Preheat oven to 450, and pop chicken in for 45 minutes.

Lower heat to ~400, and flip chicken breast-side-up. (Having the backside up during the browning phase makes sure the breast doesn't dry out, as it is basted by all the bird-fat dripping down.) Check for doneness (approaching 160 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh), remove and rest wrapped in foil for at least 15 minutes.

Behold your glorious bird.

Carve and serve with root vegetables. Normally I make a pan jus, but this was so moist and flavorful, it seemed a crime to drown it in sauce. Crisp skin, moist meat - not even a hint of dryness to the white meat.
Victory is mine. (The wife and Peanut concur.)

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