Sunday, April 7, 2013

Poultry Convictions

I'm quite an opinionated person sometimes.

My sisters are smirking at that opening and either aloud or in their heads they are saying..."SOMETIMES?!?!?!" My Dad and my Man have tried to teach me that there are "hills to die on" the implication being that not every hill is worth my hot-hearted, loudly-stated allegiance. I'm learning that...slowly.

Still, there ARE those hills toward which to focus one's ardor and my heart beats hard after what may perhaps be more than my fair share of hills.

I'd like to address one of my tightly held convictions right here and now...


Yessiree, I feel very strongly that a significant portion of a couple's pre-marital counseling should cover the how to's of chicken roasting. I think that before a minister agrees that a couple is fit to be wed, he should take the betrothed pair into the church kitchen where there awaits a fresh bird to be roasted. The couple should be able to demonstrate, with a fair amount of competence, that they can handle themselves in the kitchen with that chicken. If they cannot, the pastor's wife should be summoned forthwith to give a demonstration.

You think I'm kidding...I'm not.

No, I can't find a verse in the Bible to support my conviction, strongly held though it may be, nor can I  convince my very OWN pastor to cooperate on this point.

No, I couldn't have passed that test as an engaged 21 year old or even, as a married 28 year old mother of two. In fact, as a newlywed I may or may not have grown a bit queasy while cutting a whole chicken into pieces while my Man read the directions out loud from my shiny new copy of The Joy of Cooking.

BUT I KNOW HOW TO ROAST A CHICKEN NOW and that knowing has made all the difference. A roasted chicken feeds a family for many more meals than the first. It can feed a family, even a family the size of mine, for at least three meals, and can contribute bits and pieces to even more. Roasting a chicken is also a very economical approach to feeding a family. Knowing how to roast a chicken also  gives the cook a bit of "street-cred" (which is like confidence for those of us reading this post with glasses!) in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, roasted chicken is one of those things which can be intimidating (as it was for me for way too long) but is soooo much easier than baking cookies or even making pancakes. Whodda thought?!

Recently I learned a new trick that has taken my simple roast chicken to new heights, which is really nice for a bird who in its natural life, didn't experience many heights at all!

First, have a tray or casserole or roasting pan ready to place chicken on or in while you are working with it. Remove the chicken from the paper, or plastic wrapping. REMOVE the giblets from the cavity if they are there (every rookie makes the mistake of roasting the bird with the giblets inside...don't be a rookie!) If you have giblets, throw 'em in a baggie and into the freezer for use in another chicken adventure. Rinse away the juices with cold water and place the chicken on/in your predetermined spot. Grab three or four paper towels and dry that chicken inside and out. I know it's not glamorous to get all up in that chicken's, but it's important.

Know that you are not ever going to get that chicken completely dry. Its going to be releasing juices and water for a while, but we can take care of that. You want the chicken very dry so that when you roast it the skin gets super crispy. Dry bird = crispy roast chicken.

After your chicken is as dry as you can get it, pour a few tablespoons of kosher salt into a small dish. You'll work out of this dish so you don't contaminate your entire salt supply with chicken-gooed hands. Sprinkle the chicken all over with kosher salt, about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon per pound (if you have a 3 pounder use about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons. For a 4 pounder, 2-3 teaspoons).  The amount doesn't need to be exact, use more if you have a saltier palate, less if not. Make sure to salt the inside of the cavity as well as under the legs and the wings.

Add any other seasonings as well, I like a black pepper blend on my chicken but you can use what ever you'd like as well because the salt will soak into the chicken and it will carry those other flavors with it too.

Now here's where you've got to trust me a bit. Place the chicken in the fridge uncovered and walk away for at least 24 hours. I know, I know, I don't like to leave things uncovered in my fridge either there's just so much that seems wrong with that but Molly, {not my Molly, another Molly altogether} the person from whom I learned this trick, said so and I trusted her. She is the award winning author of a 537 page book completely dedicated to roasting after all...and for the record, she was exactly right! The lady knows her chickens!

Molly says...
Arrange the salted chicken on a wire rack (a cake cooling rack or roasting rack works well) set in a baking dish or on some kind of tray to catch any drips. (The rack allows the air to circulate and promotes crisper skin all over, but it's not absolutely necessary. If space is tight...just set the chicken in a dish.) Refrigerate--ideally uncovered...for at least 8 hours and up to 48 hours.

When you take the chicken out of the fridge, it will finally be dry and there won't be any salt on the surface. It's gone deep into that chicken! Let your bird rest on the counter for about an hour before roasting it so that it can come to room temperature. Just before you place it in the (400˚) oven, rub canola or olive oil or butter evenly over the breast and legs to help it brown evenly, and then place it in a 400˚ oven atop either a layer of lemon slices or onion slices. I sometimes add a half of a lemon and a few smashed garlic cloves to the cavity for extra credit just before placing into the oven.) I like to roast mine with smashed potatoes too, but that's another post all together!

Roast until juices run clear with only a trace of pink when you prick the thigh (or meat thermometer registers 170˚ in the thickest part of the thigh) which can take from an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 10 to 20 minutes before carving. How to carve a chicken? Go here for a great video...How To Carve a Chicken.

...and now down the aisle with long as you both shall live and so on.

NOW you are qualified for Holy Matrimony or at least to make a nice chicken dinner to impress someone special.

As I think about this whole roast chicken and marriage thing I realize that no one should wait until they are ready to walk the aisle before learning to roast a chicken. Perhaps it should be mandatory to graduate high school! Yes! Let's get that in the books! Somebody call the governor!

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