Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Roast Beast (Beast = Chicken)

Oven-Roasted Chicken

I have passed another culinary milestone this weekend by roasting my first chicken. There is something uniquely satisfying in having successfully roasted a whole animal. I'll be moving up to roasting camels shortly.

This basic recipe, which I adapted from various versions, worked extremely well with a 3 1/2 lb chicken. That's pretty small, enough for 2-3 people. If you use a bigger chicken, add 20 minutes of cooking time for each pound of meat. This was a standard, pre-packed Perdue bird, with the gizzards and whatnot cleaned out and packed inside. You can use those bits to make a nice gravy, but I didn't have time. I felt slightly bad wasting them. I swear I'll use every part of the buffalo if I ever roast one.

I seasoned my dainty little capon with a combination of Turkish seasonings, though the next time I roast a chicken, I'll experiment with different flavorings. I have some Jamaican jerk seasoning that seems promising. *Note to healthy chefs: if you must remove the skin, do it after the chicken is roasted. The skin keeps the rest from drying out. You can even season under the skin by making a few little cuts and sticking in some slices of garlic, so that you're not stripping the flavor away when you peel your poultry.

Oven-Roasted Chicken

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes

1 chicken (3.5 lbs)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp seasoning of choice
1 small onion, quartered

Clear the bag with the innards out of the chicken and rinse inside and out, then pat dry all over. Rub the lemon juice and olive oil all over the bird, inside and out, making sure all surfaces are covered. Sprinkle your seasoning on and rub in evenly. Stuff the body cavity with the quartered onions and close over the opening. Tie the chicken's legs together tightly with cotton twine. You can wrap and leave the chicken for a few hours at this point, but try not to leave it for more than six (remember- acids like lemon juice "cook" things and change their texture).

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your chicken in a roasting dish, on a rack if you like. Cook the chicken at 450 degrees for 20 minutes (this will seal in the juices), then lower the heat to 350 degrees and let it cook for one hour. Mine was juicy and tender, but definitely cooked all the way after this treatment. The skin had a nice crispness to it, and was extra-yummy from the seasonings. I'm looking forward to trying this again when I can cook at a leisurely pace.

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