- You’ve Got to Know Your Chicken

A recent reading of the New York Times (go to bug me not for logins). I enjoy touching in on the Dining section to see what our weekly focus as a nation is to be. However, I felt leftout on this one:

Allow me to answer: when your chicken’s internal temperature reaches approximately 160°F, allow 5-7° of carryover cooking after removing it from the oven, and you have a beautifully done bird (final “is it done yet?” temperature of around 165°F).

chickyI’m mostly a vegetarian eater, and pretty darn close to vegan at times, but this sad sad NYTimes quote made my Sweets and I go adopt a nice organic free range chicken for a short stay at our home. The presense of roasted chickens in supermarkets is a great new quick and easy ingredient for cooks on the go. I believe these roasted chickens may aid in helping our country of eaters redefine their palate, and help ween us away from overly processed foods. However, the missed joy of pan drippings and homemade stock make rosting your own bird an essential set of cooking skills to develop.

Sweets and I are starting a semi-regular tradition of roasting a chicken on the weekend. Its a great anatomy lesson, good kitchen time, wonderful eats, and a sure-fire way to make your dining companions weep from pleasure. This weekend we roasted a chicken with red wine, and served it with an impromptu grilled bread salad of eggplant and asparagus, accompanied by pan gravy and my favorite potato recipe, creamy crushed potatoes.

Wine Roasted Chicken with Grilled Asparagus Eggplant Bread Salad and Creamy Crushed Potatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat a large stock pot (a pan large enough for your chicken to comfortably fit in) over medium heat.

Meanwhile prep for your bird. Get your cutting board ready with:

  • a small dish of pepper and salt,
  • One quartered onion,
  • one small orange quartered,
  • and several springs of fresh thyme.

Remove the giblets from one 3 1/2 – 4 lb chicken and place them in a small sauce pan with some chopped up carrot, celery, onion and a bay leaf. Cover the giblets and vegetables with cold water and bring to a simmer. Keep at a simmer until your chicken is done, occasionally adding a touch more water. This will be your stock to use in addition to the pan drippings for the gravy.

Cut off the fatty piece of flesh at the neck region of the bird and place this in with your giblets. Rub some of your salt and pepper inside the bird. Stuff with your quartered onion, orange, and thyme. Generously rub the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and then place on a dish and wash your hands and cutting board.

Drizzle a tablespoon of high heat oil (canola, refined sesame, etc) in your hot large pot and gently place your bird in. Rotate the chicken (using two forks or tongs), browning the bird on all sides to develop a golden brown skin, approximatly 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the bird to a clean plate and place a metal steamer down in your hot pot (if you don’t have a steamer, then just keep your chicken in). Place the bird back ontop of the steamer and insert a probe thermometer slightly horizontally into the breast, so that the tip is not hitting bone or the bird’s cavity (if you don’t have a probe thermometer, you’ll just have to babysit your bird to check its temperature, it’ll just take longer than if you have a probe). Pour in 1 – 1 1/2 cups of red wine (we used a Castle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon) and place a sheet of tin foil over the put and place it in the oven with the probe thermometer still in the bird. Set your alarm temperature to 157ºF and start to work on your side dishes.

Creamy Crushed Potatoes

Fill a medium sized skillet (I used a cast iron) with a single layer of small potatoes (we used small organic Buttercreams). Don’t pack the potatoes in tight as they will need a little bit of room for squishing. Pour in vegetable stock or chicken stock to just barely cover the potatoes. Top with a sprig of rosemary, and sprinkle of salt and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, when the stock comes to half-way up the potatoes. After 20 minutes, use the bottom of a pint glass to press onto each potato crushing it slightly. This flattens the potatoes, increasing their contact with the skillet which will give you more good brown bits on the potatoes. Cook after flattening for 5 minutes or until the stock has evaporated and a brown crust has developed on the potatoes. Flip over each potato and brown. When both sides are brown, remove from the heat and cover to retain the heat. If you think of it, try deglazing this pan with a bit of your red wine and taste to see if you want to add it to your chicken gravy.

Grilled Bread Salad with Eggplant and Asparagus

Your amount of grill space will determine how quickly this dish can be made. I like to make this dish after the chicken is done and the pan gravy has been made. Alternatively, the vegetables can be sauted instead of grilled. I like to use my cast iron stove top grill for this sort of a dish. Heat your grill over medium heat and give a light coating of high heat appropriate oil (canola, refined sesame). Slice one eggplant in ½ inch thick slices and lightly drizzle with oil and salt. Grill the eggplant on both sides till nicely marked, then remove to a dish and cover to keep warm. Grill 1lb of asparagus (with its woody ends snapped off- toss these in the giblet pot) till marks form, and the asparagus are just slightly limp. Cut the asparagus and eggplant into one inch pieces and cover. Cut two 1-inch thick slices of hearty bread (whole wheat sourdough is great) and lightly coat each side with olive oil. Place bread on the gril, pressing down on the slices for most of the cooking. Cook both sides till golden and marked. Immediately after removing the bread from the grill, rub each side roughly with a freshly cut clove of garlic. Cut the bread into cubes and toss with the roasted eggplant and asparagus. Dress with 1 tbs of olive oil and 2 tsp of garlic vinegar. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Finishing the Chicken- Pan Gravy

When your bird has hit your target temperature of 157ºF, remove it from the oven. Depending on the size of your bird, oven temperature, and how thoroughly you browned your chicken, this can take from 45 minutes to 1½ hours. The important key here is the internal temperature of the bird. Allow the chicken to sit covered for several minutes and it will finish cooking, its internal temperature rising several degrees. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with the tin foil. Remove your metal steamer, and separate your pan juices. Set aside the bottom layer of juice and return the top layer of fat to the pan. Heat the fat over medium-low heat and whisk in 1-2 Tbs of flour. Sprinkle in enough flour to form a loose slurry, whisking the whole time. Cook your mixture till it starts to just deepen in color, 2-3 minutes and slowly whisk in the reserved pan juice. Your next liquid addition will be a ladelful of your giblet broth, added only after the previous addition of liquid has been thoroughly combined with the flour mixture and no lumps remain. Continue to ladel in broth, allowing the gravy mixture to come to a slight simmer. Add broth until you achieve a desired thickness, and then taste to check for seasoning. Usually the salt and pepper from the bird season the gravy enough to negate the addition of anymore salt.

Now comes the fun chicken anatomy lesson… using your hands or forks, tear of several chunks of chicken meat to plate with your sides and a nice drizzle of pan gravy over the entire plate (I bet I didn’t have to tell you that!). After eating, finish picking all the meat off of your bird for use in sooo many other dishes and put the slimy odds and ends in a stock pot with your bird carcus and various vegetables to contribute to stock.

I’m starting to get dewy eyed just writing this! Enjoy

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