Friday, January 18, 2013

Roasted Chicken: Making it a Meal

“Tomorrow, I’m going to make a very fancy roasted chicken.”

Roasting a chicken makes me feel like the most powerful kitchen wizard, and it isn’t even that difficult.  You could sum it up in just a few words:  Put chicken in 400 degree oven.  Take out when the thigh meat is 180 degrees Fahrenheit (about 90 minutes).  Eat.  

My blurry chicken. I got excited and ripped off the legs in joy.
But we make things more complicated for ourselves.  So here are a few tips I have picked up:

Spice Blends Help
If you don’t know how to season the bird, just stick with poultry seasoning.  I made this chicken with garam masala, a north Indian spice blend.  It takes the guesswork out of seasoning, and you can experiment with spices as you learn to combine them.

Clean Hand, Dirty Hand
This is a trick that I picked up doing tissue culture in the lab.  You keep one hand clean, and use the other to touch possibly contaminated items.  While prepping the bird, use your clean hand to grab the salt shaker, the spice mix, the lemons, and the like.  Use your dirty hand to rub them around the bird, lift the bird up and rotate it, etc.  When you’re finished, wash both hands with soap and very hot water.  This prevents poisoning yourself and others with salmonella.

Veggies are Good
I’m still working on perfecting a method to produce perfectly cooked veggies on the same time scale as the chicken.  What I do know is that you should stir them up a bit every half an hour or so so that they cook evenly and are evenly moistened with chicken juices.

Use Foil
You can use foil to wrap up the ends of the legs and the wings up with foil if they start to get too dark.  This seems easier than tucking and tying that some recipes make you do to keep the extremities from burning.

Make a Finishing Sauce
Roasted chicken and veggies are only made better with a moist sauce to add more intense flavors to their own.  Gravy is the classic choice.  I’m still figuring out how to make a good gravy from a small roast chicken. I usually make it from a mix. For this meal, instead of gravy, I made parsley gremolata by blending garlic, parsley, and lemon zest.  A bright, herby sauce like this is a fresher, brighter alternative to gravy.

Have fun crafting tasty meals around a roasted bird!

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