Monday, March 26, 2012

Roast Chicken

Spicy, Salty, Crispy Roast Chicken with skin that crackles when you eat it

Roast Chicken is enigmatic. It's such a simple, basic meal but can be really tricky to get just perfect. It's one of our favorite meals at our house, and the chicken rarely makes it to the table; long before it's fully rested, we're standing over the stove, tearing a the crispy skin and picking off the juicy, steamy meat, blowing on our hot fingers. The tradition of impatiently tearing apart a whole chicken, hot from the oven is handed down to me by my mother, who learned much of her cooking many years ago in the tiny village of Ardaktos on Crete. This is another tried-and-true family recipe and it's f'ing delicious.

This chicken recipe takes all day, be warned.

To keep a chicken moist when it's cooked, be sure to brine it for at least an hour. The salt in the brine keeps the chicken meat from releasing moisture during the cooking process, and the sugar helps to crisp and brown the skin. The recipe below is a basic unflavored brine, but you can tinker with it by using brown sugar, flavored salts, or adding crushed herbs and spices.

Basic Brine
1/2 C Sugar
1/2 C Salt
4 Cups Hot or Boiling Water
6 Cups Cold or Ice Water
1 Very Large Bowl
Note the weight of your chicken, you'll need it later

Mix the salt, sugar and hot water in a large bowl, stirring until the crystals are dissolved. If using other spices, add them to the hot mixture as well as the heat will help to release the flavors. Cool the mixture down by adding the cold water. We don't want a chicken sitting for hours in warm water, getting us all sick, now would we?

Remove the giblets from the cavity and set them aside for stock. Put the chicken in the brine, opening up the cavity and making sure it fills with brine. Cover and refrigerate. Brine for at least 2 hours, up to 12 hours. The longer the brining, the saltier the chicken will taste.

Preparing the Chicken
To get a crispy skin, the chicken skin must be dry when it goes into the oven.

1 Chicken
1 Lemon

1. Remove the chicken from the brine. Do not rinse.
2. Loosen the skin all over the chicken by gently running your hand under the skin and separating it from the meat. Be careful not to tear.
3. Zest 1 lemon into a small bowl. Juice half of it into the same bowl.
4. Gently pour the juice/zest mixture between the chicken skin and meat. Massage it around so it spreads evenly.
5. Pat the chicken dry inside and out and set on an open plate in the refrigerator for about an hour to dry.

Roasting the Chicken
Stuffing the chicken cavity with a dense stuffing will make the chicken cook unevenly. Make sure that if you stuff it, only use loosely packed herbs like rosemary sprigs or a few cloves of garlic so that the heat can circulate evenly.

Preheat Oven to 450

4 Tbl Olive Oil
4-6 Tbl Dried Oregano
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic, Smashed
1 Tbl Salt (go easy on the salt if it was a long brine)
1 Tbl Pepper

1. Rub the inside of the chicken cavity with 1 Tbl Olive Oil and the smashed garlic.
2. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining olive oil.
3. Mix the Oregano and Cayenne, and rub it all over the chicken
4. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.

Place the chicken breast side down in an open roasting pan with a rack on the bottom. By roasting the back on top for the first part of cooking, the chicken bastes itself and stays moist.

Do not put water in the pan, and do not let the chicken touch the bottom of the pan. Circulating the hot air around the bird helps to crisp the skin.

5. Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350.
6. The chicken will roast for about 20 minutes per pound, but will be turned over for the last 20 minutes so set the timer for the total roast time minus 20 minutes.
7. Turn the chicken over 20 minutes before the roasting time is done.
8. Add more time if needed. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted between the breast and thigh reads 160 (the chicken will continue to cook once it's been removed from the oven - the temp you want is actually 165).
9. If the skin isn't brown enough when the chicken is done, turn on the broiler and crisp it up. It should only take a minute or two - watch carefully so it doesn't burn.

Let the bird rest, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

Unless you're at our house, in which case the chicken is GONE as soon as it's cool enough to touch.

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying this for supper tonight! Looks amazing.