Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Roast Chicken and stuff.

When I was a little girl, I would spend summers, and lots of other time, with my grandparents. My grandpa was a pretty darn good cook. One of my all time favorite meals was roast chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy and peas. I wasn't able to get grandpa's recipe before he passed away. BUT, I often roast a chicken with different seasonings, trying to get a little closer to grandpa's recipe. While I've never gotten it just right, roast chicken still remains one of my absolute favorite dinners. I think maybe the reason I've never gotten it quite right is that it's not my grandpa making it...

For tonight's chicken, I used the following seasonings:

Sage, onion powder, Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper, and 1/4c. butter. I also had 3 cloves of garlic that I cut up pretty roughly. If you're not abusing your garlic, you're not doing it right!

And of course, one whole chicken. The chicken was shy and requested no paparazzi before being seasoned. I had to grant a dead chicken it's last request.

First, preheat the oven to 325. Lower temp over longer time means yummy chicken.

Rinse the chicken thoroughly, outside, inside the cavity and under the breast skin - being careful not to tear the breast skin - it's difficult since you also need to get your hand up under it to separate it from the breast meat. If you have an aversion to touching raw chicken, now is the time to get over it - roast chicken is best when you give it lots of love.

Once you've rinsed the chicken, let it drip dry for a bit and then dry the rest of the way with paper towels - you'll need to do this to make sure the butter sticks to the chicken really well. Mix the seasonings - you can use what I used or your own choices - with 1/4c of the butter (melt in the microwave until it's soft). Again, with your hands, rub the chicken all over the outside, inside the cavity and between the skin and breast meat. Use the dry seasonings and garlic (or whatever you choose) very liberally - what I've found is that when you think you've used too much, put in a little more for really good flavor. Otherwise, you will get a REALLY mildly seasoned bird.

Next, cut a hole in the skin below the breast near the cavity as shown (sorry for the blur...sometimes taking pictures one handed can be quite challenging!):

This is so you can tuck the legs into the skin. Another option would be to tie the legs together, but lacking twine at this point, I opted to tuck the legs.

Place uncovered in the oven in whatever baking dish you've got handy that will hold the juices. Check every 20-30 minutes and if there are juices appearing, you can baste the chicken with them as you see fit. This helps keep the yummy flavors on the bird and also keeps the skin from getting dry and overcooked. This is how mine looked after just about 1 1/2 hours - It needed to go a while longer, not only because it wasn't done yet but because it wasn't quite golden enough:

As you can see, there's already a fair amount of juices accumulated.... the longer it cooks, the more you get.

Cooking times vary, depending on the size of your bird, so after about an hour start checking for doneness - this is accomplished by piercing a meaty part of the bird and examining the juices - if they run clear, your chicken is done, if not, give it another 15-30 minutes and check again. After 2 hours, here's what it looked like:

Toward the end of the roasting of the chicken, make whatever sides will be served with it. Gravy will be made as follows once the chicken is removed from the oven - it'll need to sit for 10-15 minutes after roasting to ensure that it'll be nice & juice. Tent it with foil or a lid and that'll keep it nice & warm.

To make the gravy, you'll need the following:

about 1/4c of the fatty drippings from the chicken, chicken broth, flour, heavy cream and then the rest of the  drippings/juices from the roast chicken.

While the chicken is resting, place the fatty drippings in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Add in a few tablespoons of flour, up to 1/4c. Don't be afraid - as long as your oil/fat is equal in quantity to the flour you'll be fine. Wisk together and allow it to bubble for a minute or two. I was a little apprehensive as there was only whole wheat flour in the house to work with and I'd never used it to make gravy. However, I was pleasantly surprised. While it was cooking it smelled a little like home baked bread. The difference was not one I could taste and it actually had a slightly nutty flavor that was quite pleasant!

Add in the chicken broth - you can adjust the amount you use depending on how much broth/juices you think you're getting from your roast chicken.

Add in the cream. The amounts of cream and chicken broth/juices used will depend on how much gravy you want to make and how much broth you have. Wisk as you cook this over medium heat - it should be quite thick.

At the end of the resting time for the chicken, add in some of the juices from the pan that you cooked the chicken in and mix well. Add salt & pepper as needed.

Before you slice up the chicken, add any remaining juices to the gravy. What you'll find is that when you cut up the chicken you'll release a whole lot more of the juices, particularly from around the legs. Leave any juices that appear when you're cutting it in the baking dish. Cut the meat off the carcass, placing it back in the baking dish. Be sure to coat the breast meat especially with the juices. This should turn out quite moist anyway, but the breast meat always seems to be drier than the dark meat so every little bit helps.


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