Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Chicken

In honor of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about roasting birds. I've read a million Facebook status updates today about cooking turkeys, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, and it's made me a little homesick. I'll combat that with thoughts of one of my favorite things to cook, chicken.

My favorite way to roast a four pound chicken is to start by brining it for half an hour to an hour. I use about a half of a cup of salt, a quarter cup of sugar, a splash of vinegar, and enough water to cover the chicken in a gallon ziploc bag. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels and let the bird come up to room temperature.

Preheat the oven as high as it will go - mine stops at around 500. Once the chicken has come up to room temperature, rub it with softened butter inside and out and salt it liberally. Sometimes I put half a lemon and half an onion inside the cavity with whatever herbs are seasonal. Then tie the ends of the drumsticks together to keep the legs and thighs close to the bird so they roast evenly. I also tuck the wings under. A lot of folks roast the bird breast-side down, but i find that if you brine it, it really doesn't lose any flavor or moisture if you roast breast-side up. Use a good sturdy roasting pan - I usually use my 12 inch stainless steel oven-safe calphalon.

If your chicken comes with a "goody bag" of giblets save them! I like to make a chicken stock of sorts by browning those extra pieces in a sturdy sauce pan with onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and parmesan rinds if you have them. Deglaze with white wine, vermouth, brandy, or Pernod. Using brandy or Pernod will give you a really mellow flavor, and white wine and vermouth will brighten it up considerably. Add about a cup of water, salt, bay leaf and seasonal herbs. Allow this to reduce at a simmer while the chicken is in the oven. Strain before use.

Roast the bird in a really hot oven for about 20 minutes before decreasing the temperature to 375. Finish the bird off for another 45 minutes or until you can easily pull the thigh off the bird. Once the bird is cooked, remove it to a platter and cover it with foil until you are ready to serve it. The juices should run clear at this point. If you see any pink, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and repeat until the juices are clear. Medium Rare chicken is not yummy.

Because I've used my oven-safe skillet, i can transfer the pan directly to the stove top after the bird is finished in the oven. Heat the pan and add a small can of crushed tomatoes, a half of a cup of white wine or vermouth, herbs, and half of a cup of chicken stock (or that delicious jus you made with the extra chicken parts). Be sure to gently scrape off any brown bits that have adhered to the pan during the roasting process. Reduce the liquid down by half over medium heat. Skim off anything that looks greasy.

Before service, add roasted eggplant, sauteed zucchini, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, or whatever other cooked vegetables you like to the pan jus. Heat the entire mess through, being careful not to turn the vegetables to mush, and stir in two or three tablespoons of softened butter. Finish with fresh chopped herbs, and correct with salt and pepper. Pour the resulting sauce and vegetables around the chicken on the platter. You can carve the chicken in the kitchen, or serve it whole for more drama and carve it at the table. Garnish with big pieces of herbs and lots of freshly ground black pepper - whole sprigs of parsley and/or rosemary are pretty.
Serve this with good crusty bread, individual bowls of steamed white rice, or buttery pasta and grated cheese. Folks will be sopping up the jus by the end of the meal. Just about any wine goes great with this dish. I especially enjoy a full-flavored white or red Burgundy, a "Cru" Beaujolais, a dry Amontillado, or a more rustic Chianti Colli Senesi. Julia, I hope I'm doing you proud. Bon appetit!

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh. I'm so gonna have to try this!