Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roast a Chicken with Vegetables - You'll be glad you did!

It's a classic dinner dish and one I often make on Sunday afternoons. In the summer, I roast a whole chicken using the grill's rotisserie. When the weather isn't cooperative, I use a different method to produce a lovely dinner from my oven. It includes baby brussels sprouts, golden potatoes and carrots. Whole roasted chicken fills the house with a fragrance like none other, warms the heart and fills the belly with wholesome goodness. It said that Herbert Hoover's presidential election campaign slogan in 1928 promised "a chicken in every pot". Before him the phrase was used in seventeenth century France when Henry IV wished that each of his peasants would enjoy "a chicken in his pot every Sunday." So this tradition of Sunday roasted chicken goes way back and today I thought I would share with you my simple technique.

Now I know you are probably saying 'why should I go to the trouble when I can get a delicious bird already cooked at numerous grocery stores.' It is a good point. They do make a very tasty rotisserie chicken and it often costs less than a good quality raw chicken from your grocery's cooler. But nonetheless, you are not really sure what they've used to make it good. Many are chemically processed to make them tender and flavorful. And how can you make the perfect roasted vegetables alongside the chicken if you bring it home already cooked. And what about that aroma that will fill your house and make your children ask 'when will dinner be ready?' While I too have enjoyed the prepared chicken from my local shop, I still prefer to roast my own chicken whenever I have the time.

You should always start by selecting the best quality roasting chicken you can find, and that typically means Amish or free range and not too large. A smaller chicken just roasts better and has the correct proportion of meat to skin/fat. I think a 3-4pound bird is ideal.

There are those that are fans of the high heat techniques, and those that prefer dry salt brining a day or so prior to cooking. While I agree that these techniques have their advantages, I prefer a more simple technique that requires less time and is not prone to setting off my smoke alarms. I simply let the bird stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes after washing and drying. Letting it rest on the counter on a few paper towels not only helps it dry but also gives it a chance to warm up a bit. This will make it cook more evenly and quickly. Season the cavity with your favorite spices and simply tuck the wings under the breast and tie the legs and tail together to make a tight little package. Using room temperature butter, I massage the entire bird ensuring I don't miss a spot. Then I season it again with whatever I'm in the mood for and it is ready for the oven.

I recommend roasting the bird in shallow pan, on a roasting rack in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes and using a temperature probe (or meat thermometer). While this is in process, I clean the Brussels sprouts, golden potatoes and carrots. I toss them with olive oil and season them well. I then remove the chicken from the oven (it should be about 135F at the thickest portion of the thigh at this point) and surround it with the vegetables. I return it to the oven to continue roasting, checking it occasionally to ensure it is not over-browning. If it is, simply cover that section with foil and continue cooking until the thickest part of the bird away from the bone registers 175F, about another 45 minutes. Then remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving, as the temperature will continue to rise before finally receding.

Not only will you find the chicken to be juicy and crispy skinned, you'll also find the vegetables are delicious from roasting in the chicken drippings. I was amused recently when a guest indicated he didn't like Brussels sprouts. Upon tasting one he announced that these were not what he was expecting and that, contrary to his prior statement, he really did like them. His memory sprouts came from his childhood and he had not tried them since. Perhaps his mother didn't use this method to prepare them!

I'm sure this 'all in one pot' dish will certainly become a favorite of your family and a staple of your cooking repertoire.

4 comments:

  1. This sounds delicious Julian. You've given me the incentive I need to give this recipe a try!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cindi, as the title says "you'll be glad you did". Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice post, Mr. Chef. I don't like brussel sprouts, although Eddie does, and I fix them occasionally for him. I'll give this a try before summer is here and it's too hot to run the oven.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps you'll like the sprouts when you cook them this way... all things taste better when roasted around a chicken!

    ReplyDelete