April – Even More Perfect Roast Chicken

April – Even More Perfect Roast Chicken

How would you describe the perfect roast chicken? Would you mention moist white meat, or flavorful and rich dark meat, or crackly crisp skin, or still juicy leftover white meat for sandwiches and salads the next day? Maybe your answer would be ‘and’ to all those things. You want it all.

Roasted chicken has been my signature dish for years. And I am going to make it your own as well. I have found that any form of brining will dramatically improve the flavor and moistness of any baked chicken. I commonly use two methods, a dry brine and a salted buttermilk wet brine.

Here’s the bad news, it’s almost impossible to get all things with one recipe. What are you willing to give up? The decision has to do with chicken skin vs. the moistness of the leftovers. With many methods you will get crisp skin when the chicken first comes out of the oven. But leftover chicken skin is not particularly enticing at any time.

With a dry salt brine you will get wonderfully crackly crisp skin and delicious concentrated chicken taste, just not quite as moist breast meat the next day. With a buttermilk brine your leftovers will be wonderfully moist and delicious but the chicken skin will not be quite as fabulous when just out of the oven. Don’t misunderstand, it will still be a lovely burnished brown, just not as crisp. They both result in a freshly roasted chicken deserving an A+.

The other secret to a perfectly roasted and flavorful chicken is purchasing the best possible chicken available to you. By that I mean an organic, free range chicken that is ‘air chilled’. Besides flavor, there are food safety and environmental reasons to avoid the ones chilled with other birds in a huge vat of chlorinated water. You can read more about the difference here. Although ‘air chilled’ chickens are still sprayed with a fine mist of chlorinated water in the beginning, they don’t sit in it. That liquid can account for 2 to 12% of the chicken’s weight, thus diluting their flavor. And who wants to pay for chlorinated water? It’s what you see in the bottom of the pre-packaged chickens.

Any form of brining requires some advance planning. Ideally the chicken should brine for 24 hours (I’ve left them as long as 72 hours), but at least 6 hours for the best results.

Years ago, when brining first became ‘the thing’, I would prepare a liquid wet salty brine for my turkey and chickens. It required gallons of liquid (in the case of a turkey) and an ice chest (often full of bags of ice) on the back porch. Unfortunately it also frequently resulted in a spilled liquid mess on the kitchen floor. Then I read about the Zuni Cafe method. The Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco, famous for its roasted chicken. There is no liquid required in their recipe, just a kosher salt rub and your preferred seasoning (mine is always Herbes de Provence) and an overnight (or two or three) stay on a rack, uncovered in the fridge. Yippee! No spilled mess. I still often use this method and you can read more about it in a post from 2019 here.

Perfect Roast Chicken

The Perfect Dry Brined Roast Chicken

When it emerges from the fridge it looks like a wizened wrinkled century old chicken, don’t worry about it.

Then, a few months ago, I read about roasting a whole buttermilk brined chicken. Samin Nosrat writes about this technique in her book Salt Fat Acid Heat. Buttermilk has long been used to improve the flavor of fried chicken but I had never thought to use the method on a whole chicken. Don’t worry, there is no need to pull out that ice chest. You only need a cup or two of buttermilk and a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt. I simply mix the buttermilk and salt in a gallon zip lock bag, plop in the chicken, close up the bag, smush it around (put the bag in a bowl in case there are leaks) and place it in the fridge for a few hours to a few days. You can add seasonings if you want.

I found this brining mix at my favorite spice pervader, the Oaktown Spice Shop. It’s intended for that big liquid brine I mentioned in the beginning, but I simply add a couple of tablespoons to the buttermilk. It works great.

Smoky Brine

Smoky Brine

The skin comes out a wonderful burnished brown due to the caramelization of the sugars in the buttermilk. it’s not quite as crisp as the dry brined method but still wonderful.

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Here’s the fantastic thing about the buttermilk brined chicken…the leftovers. “What?” you say. Well, do you know how those rotisserie chickens you get at the store are quite acceptable when warm the first day, but the leftovers are almost always dry and tasteless? The leftover buttermilk brined chicken is still moist and delicious, even two days later. Even the breast meat!

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

For a dry brine:

  • Remove the chicken from its packaging and dry with paper towels (never rinse)
  • Rub the chicken with 2 – 4 tablespoons of kosher salt, all over. Place in a small pan, on a rack, breast up, uncovered, in the fridge. You can also rub with any other seasonings you may favor at the same time as the salt…cumin, herbes de Provence, chili powder, sumac, etc.
  • Leave undisturbed for at least 6 hours but as long as 72

For a buttermilk brine:

  • Dissolve 2 – 4 tablespoons of kosher salt in 1 to 2 cups of buttermilk in a gallon plastic bag.
  • Remove the chicken from its packaging and dry with paper towels (never rinse)
  • Place the chicken in the plastic bag and squeeze to remove as much air as possible. Squish the liquid around the chicken.
  • Please inside a bowl, or in a second bag to catch any leaks, and leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, up to 48. You can turn the bag when you think about it but it isn’t entirely necessary.

For both:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C)
  2. Line your roasting pan with foil to catch spills and oil a rack on which to place the chicken.
  3. Spray or rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil. There is not need to clean off the salt or buttermilk.
  4. Place the chicken, breast side down, on the rack and roast for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes turn the chicken breast side up, continue to roast for another 30-40 minutes until a leg moves easily in the socket and juices run clear when pierced with a small knife in the thickest part of the thigh.
  6. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

That’s all.

I’ve also cooked brined chickens (both ways) on the BBQ using the beer can method, and in the oven. You don’t need to use beer in that can. Wine works, juice works, also plain water.

You can read more about Beer Can Roast Chicken here with Middle Eastern Flavors, and Beer Can Roast Chicken with Italian Flavors on the BBQ by clicking on the links. When cooking chicken on the BBQ, or in the oven, I often  make two because the leftovers give me additional meals for the week ahead. I recommend you do the same.

Do you have a signature, tried and true meal that you can whip out with your eyes closed?

It’s Fiesta time! By that I mean Fiesta Friday, this week #376. Come on over and join the party. Angie hosts and this week’s co-host is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Fiesta Friday is a virtual (isn’t everything these days) collection of posts from a talented collection of bloggers. You will find tips for home maintenance, weddings, food, crafts and occasionally travel. I am taking this one over to share with the group.

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

In her classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), Julia Child states “You can always judge the quality of a cook or restaurant by roast chicken.” Roasting a chicken is certainly an important skill to master. Your own home cooked roast chicken will be miles better than any supermarket or deli chicken.

Julia’s method results in an excellent roast chicken. However it requires turning the chicken 4 times and basting every 10 minutes. Just reading the directions can be off putting. My own method doesn’t require any basting at all and only 1 turn. It results in crisp skin and juicy meat. I don’t truss because tying the legs close to the breast results in undercooked thigh or overcooked breast meat.

Here is the trick. I take advantage of the newest information on brining, and borrow a technique often used when roasting duck. I pre-salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge (uncovered and breast up) for several hours or overnight. That’s the only preplanning that is required.

The perfect roast chicken starts with the quality of the chicken. Buy the best you can afford, preferably free range organic and air chilled. Water bath chilling results in the bird absorbing a lot of that soaking water. I also prefer the air chilled for food safety reasons, dozens of birds are not sitting in a vat of water. If one of the birds is contaminated it increases the chances that all will be contaminated as well.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

These are general directions.

Adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your chicken. I find it is done when the leg moves easily in the socket when jiggled. For a 4-5 pound chicken that will be somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. There will be some personal preference determining the time. I don’t mind if the white meat has a very slight pink tinge, you may want to cook your own longer. Your oven temperature will also play a part. My oven runs hot, your own may run cool. It’s best to know those things, check your own with an oven thermometer. They are cheap and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

You can use an instant read thermometer for more precise measurements of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I take mine out just before it reaches that temperature. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to sit on your carving board or platter for 15 minutes, that allows the juices to settle back into the meat.

Salted Chicken on a Rack Ready for the Fridge

Salted Chicken Ready for the Fridge

So here we go…

There are two methods for brining a bird. The first, and older method, is to submerge it in a salt water solution. The second is a dry brine, simply rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of kosher salt. I don’t use method the first method anymore, I am not partial to a vat of salty water taking up space in my fridge (a spill will create a big mess…I’ve been there). In addition, a water chilled bird is what I am trying to get away from. I want to intensify flavors, not dilute them.

Dry brining intensifies flavors and will give you crisp skin. I use kosher salt because it doesn’t contain any additives and has a clean flavor.

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and dry it with paper towels. The latest food safety recommendations are to not rinse it. Rub it generously with kosher salt, both inside and out. Put it on a rack in baking dish, breast side up, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. If you have 24 hours you will be amazed at the result. Don’t go longer than 24 unless you are brining a turkey.

Take the chicken out of the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). I don’t use the convection fan. Rub your chicken with olive oil and any flavorings you may want (I don’t worry about the salt). I have used my confit lemon oil and lemon slices with herbs to Provence (the aroma as it roasts is incredible), paprika, chili powder, roasted fennel spice, zatar, fresh herbs, etc. You can let your imagination run wild. But you will find this chicken is delicious with only a simple coating of olive oil.

Poke a few holes in a whole lemon and place that inside the chicken. You could also add a few sprigs of whatever fresh herb you have handy. The lemon adds additional flavor. You could even use an orange or a couple of limes (especially nice if you are giving the chicken a Mexican vibe).

Line your roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier. Rub a rack (V shaped if you have one) with oil and place the chicken breast down on the rack. Once your oven has reached 425 degrees F, place the chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and turn it breast side up, roast for an additional 25 minutes or until done.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken

Look at how moist and juicy! And the skin is super crisp.

I often serve the chicken with a simple salad, I pour some of those chicken juices over the salad as a dressing with an additional squeeze of lemon juice. The fresh salad below had sliced peaches and red onion as well as some avocado. The combination was delightful.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken Thigh

Perfect Roast Chicken

I’m taking this to Fiesta Friday to share with Angie and the gang. It’s Fiesta #279 and I am a co-host along with Jenny from Apply to Face Blog.

Click on the links to join the party or check out all the blogs about food, the garden, and crafts. You can also add your own link.

Thank you so much for visiting and I would love to hear your comments.

 

June – 45 Minute Roast Chicken

June – 45 Minute Roast Chicken

Do you say “it cannot be done”? 45 minutes! Really!? I say it can…by using a small trick. I read this tip in the NY Times Wednesday food section. They intended for it to be used to roast a chicken on your grill like an oven and I originally planned making this recipe as written.  It was the weekend we were moving back into our vacation cabin and I, frankly, ran out of steam after unpacking all day. But, I had already purchased and seasoned the chicken. We were hungry, but lacked the energy to light the BBQ. Consequently I roasted it in the oven as if it were an oven, which it obviously was.

If you roast chickens frequently you will immediately recognize the problem of roasting one perfectly. If you truss the chicken into a neat little package, the area between the thigh and the breast is often undercooked (and still has red juices) when the breast is ready. Many folks are completely turned off by those pink juices and it often means an undercooked thigh, which is my favorite part.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this trick before, it seems so obvious in retrospect.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of chile powder
  • Freshly grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 whole chicken, patted dry
  • Extra virgin olive oil as needed

Utensils

  • Heavy duty 12″ heat proof frying pan or skillet, preferably cast iron

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, chile powder, and lemon zest. Rub the chicken inside and out with the mix. Place the chicken on a rack over a baking pan and refrigerate (uncovered) for 4 hours to overnight.
  2. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly rub the heavy skillet with oil and place it in the oven to heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Here it is: Use a sharp knife to cut the skin connecting the legs from the rest of the body. Use your hands (you can cover them with paper towels if you are squeamish) to splay the thighs open until you feel the joint pop.
  4. Rub the chicken with olive oil. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven (it will be very hot), and place the chicken breast side down in the hot skillet. Return it to the oven and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the breast is seared and easily releases from the pan.
  5. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully turn the chicken breast side up using tongs and a spatula. I am always reminded of Julia Child at this point. Remember the episode when she drops the chicken on the floor, picks it up and places it back on the plate? So funny!
  6. Return the skillet to the oven and continue cooking for another 25-35 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  7. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and rest for 10 minutes before serving.

By splaying the legs you will find that the thighs and breast cook at the same rate. The heat has a chance to get into the joint.

Quick Roast Chicken

Quick Roast Chicken

No Pink!

No Pink!

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #124, I think the group will appreciate the tip. I have the honor of co-hosting this week with Lindy @ Love in the Kitchen. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to view all the rest of the party food.

 

April – Lemon Rosemary Chicken

April – Lemon Rosemary Chicken

This roast chicken gets a triple dose of lemon from preserved lemons (or Meyer lemon Aigre-doux), fresh lemons, and a spicy lemon pickle relish.

There isn’t much to say about this recipe except it is easy, wonderfully flavorful, spring-like, company worthy, and beautiful. Roast some asparagus in the oven for the last 15 minutes. Or, toss together a salad and you have a fantastic dinner with very little effort on your part. The quick lemon pickle I served with it is delicious (I will post the recipe soon), but a few wedges of fresh lemon on the side would work just as well.

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

If your oven is on to cook one chicken, you may as well cook two. Rotisserie or roast chickens are amazingly versatile and lend themselves to wonderful leftovers. All too often, the ones from the supermarket are injected with ingredients that you don’t need to eat. This recipe is for one chicken, but easily doubled for two.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken – at least 4 pounds and preferably organic
  • 1 preserved lemon or 1 lemon from Meyer lemon Aigre-doux
  • 1 fresh lemon, washed and halved
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, 1 whole and 1 minced
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • a dozen baby potatoes – yellow finn or red

Method

  1. Dry the chicken and remove the package of giblets, I keep a large ziplock bag in the freezer for such things. When I have enough (that is usually when I can’t close the freezer door anymore), I make stock.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  3. Place the potatoes in the bottom of a large roasting pan. You can either roast the chicken on a rack over the potatoes or place it directly on top.
  4. Place the cut and halved lemon and 1 whole sprig of rosemary inside the chicken.
  5. Remove the pulp from the preserved lemon or lemon Aigre-doux, rinse briefly, then mince and mix into the softened butter, add the minced rosemary and mix together. I found it easier to do this with my hands.
  6. Rub the outside of the chicken with the butter mixture, pushing some under the skin and over the meat of the breast.
  7. Turn it breast side down and roast for 25 minutes.
  8. After 25 minutes, carefully turn the chicken (give the potatoes a toss) breast side up and return to the oven for another 35 minutes.
  9. Check to see if the chicken is done, juices should run clear and an instant read thermometer read 160 degrees F when stuck in the thickest part of the thigh. Put it back in the oven if needed but check frequently to see it doesn’t overcook.

    Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

    Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

  10. Remove the chickens from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes to let the juices settle before carving.
  11. Check the potatoes, depending on size they may need to go back into the oven for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking and browning.

The potatoes were basted with the dripping juices from the chicken as it cooked. Wonderful!

Roast Potatoes

Roast Potatoes

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Quick Lemon Pickle

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Quick Lemon Pickle

A glass of champagne is the perfect accompaniment.

I’m taking this to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday. Come join us at Fiesta Friday #116 by adding your link to FiestaFriday.net and the co-hosts’ blogs. The co-hosts this week are Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Cynthia @ eatmunchlove

October – Oven-Roasted Kimchi Chicken

October – Oven-Roasted Kimchi Chicken

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.

Organic and Air Chilled

Organic and Air Chilled

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.

The information above from website “The Organic Authority”.  

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.

Kimchi chicken

Kimchi chicken

Oven-Roasted Kimchi Chicken

Kimchi Butter

  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup of kimchi plus 1 tablespoon of juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Chicken

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to its maximum setting, on mine that is 500 degrees F.
  6. Wrap a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil.
  7. 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.
  8. Arrange the potatoes, bacon (if using), and corn around the chicken, sprinkle all with the reserved spice blend.IMG_3704
  9. 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.IMG_3707
  10. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 10 minutes.IMG_3706
  11. Transfer the potatoes and corn to a serving dish and toss with the remaining kimchi butter.
    Corn and Potatoes with Kimchi butter

    Corn and Potatoes with Kimchi butter

    Enjoy!

Recipe from Bon Appetit, October 2015.

I am taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #92. Come join the party hosted by Angie of the Novice Gardener. I am very excited that my post of Parmesan Oil was featured this week.