Have you ever wondered why, when you cook chicken, you sometimes end up with a lot of watery juice in the pan? It’s because most commercial chickens are dropped into a big vat of chlorinated ice water to quick chill them before packaging. At least that’s what happens in the US. Although there is an advantage to this method (it’s quick), I see some huge disadvantages. As a microbiologist I don’t like the idea of my chicken bobbing around with hundreds of others, it bothers me from a food safety standpoint. What if one of those chickens was infected with Salmonella or another pathogenic bacteria? It also uses a large amount of water which is then considered “contaminated”. And lastly, the chickens invariable absorb some of this chlorinated water, it can add as much as 2 to 12% extra weight. Since chicken is sold by the pound, you pay extra for this water.
Air chilling is the preferred method in many other countries. It is slower and less efficient, those chickens will cost more especially if they are organic. However there are many benefits. Once slaughtered, the chickens are cooled with cold air. They are individually hung and pass through a series of refrigerated chambers over a period of several hours. While they are still sprayed with a chlorine mist, they are not submerged in it. The slower chilling process is more effective at tenderizing and it means more natural chicken flavors and juices for you. The method creates far less wasted water and the individual chilling inhibits the spread of bacteria from chicken to chicken.
I’ve been trying to add more fermented foods to our diet and happened to have a jar of Korean fermented cabbage, called kimchi, in the fridge. This recipe is a lovely combination of flavors, take a look at the gorgeous chicken! It’s also essentially a one pan meal once you’ve prepared the spices and the kimchi butter, only one hour from the time you pop it into the oven to the time you are ready to eat. And, most of that time it is roasting away unattended, giving you time to toss a salad and sip a glass of wine with your family and/or friends.
Oven-Roasted Kimchi Chicken
- 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup of kimchi plus 1 tablespoon of juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 4 teaspoons of kosher salt, more if needed
- 1 small chicken – (preferred organic and air chilled) cut down the back and backbone removed. Flatten chicken by removing the breast bone
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes
- Optional – 1/4 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (I didn’t use the bacon)
- 3 ears of corn, husked, cut crosswise into pieces
- First make the kimchi butter. Pulse the kimchi in a food processor until finely chopped, add the butter, scraping down the sides as needed until incorporated. Cover and store at room temperature. Chill if made ahead.
- Prepare the spice mixture. Grind the coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, and 4 teaspoons of salt in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle until finely ground.
- Place chicken, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet or large plate. Season the chicken on both sides with 1/4 cup of the spice mixture. Chill, uncovered, for 3-8 hours.
- Put the potatoes into well salted cool water and bring to a boil. Cook 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain. You can prepare them as much as 5 hours ahead.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to its maximum setting, on mine that is 500 degrees F.
- Wrap a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil.
- Place the chicken, skin side up, on the baking sheet. Place half the kimchi butter in small pieces over the chicken. Roast until browned but not completely cooked, 20-25 minutes.
- Arrange the potatoes, bacon (if using), and corn around the chicken, sprinkle all with the reserved spice blend.
- Roast until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees F, and the potatoes and corn are brown in spots. This will take 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
- Transfer the potatoes and corn to a serving dish and toss with the remaining kimchi butter.
Recipe from Bon Appetit, October 2015.