Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Bird In the Pan

...Is worth two in the stomach. Chickens are strange creatures, having inspired their fair share of terror, culinary and otherwise. But the most infamous of all is, without a doubt, the roast chicken. Everyone's got their favorite. Your grandma, your uncle, your second cousin's uncle's best friend's sister, and probably you. Admit it: we are all obsessive about roast chicken. The skin has to be just so, the meat has to be perfectly done, and of course, there must be a battle to the death over who gets the drumstick. Brine it, bake it, whatever you will. I won't say that this is the single best way to prepare our favorite fowl, but it IS pretty good.
The hardware:
A roasting pan
Your oven
Your favorite meat thermometer. (But since, like me, you probably only own one, it would be your only meat thermometer)
The software:
A roasting chicken (betcha saw that one coming)
One to two medium-sized onions, quartered
Six or seven large carrots, broken
Olive oil
One bay leaf
Before we even start on this controversial topic, I must address the thing that is undoubtedly plaguing your mind: stuffing. "Where is the stuffing?" Well, it's not there! And it'll never be there. Stuffing is a veritable breeding ground for bacteria, and you'll have to sacrifice juicy meat for safe stuffing. It's bad for you, and the bird that it goes into. Bland, rock-hard dryness isn't exactly on my top ten foods list, and it shouldn't be on yours.
1. Kick things off by setting your hot box to 350 degrees fahrenheit. (that's 176.67 for you metric folks) Then, open up your chicken from its plastic cocoon. Like anything that's been shoved into a tiny space and frozen for extended periods of time, it's not gonna be pretty. Let the liquids drain out into the sink, and set the bird on a plastic cutting mat. Odds are, there's going to be a little pack of giblets (that's a funny word. tee hee.) tucked nice and safe up in the cavity, and you don't want those unless you're making soup.
2. With a wad of paper towels, pat your newly-emerged bird dry. It doesn't have to be shriveled up like a raisin, but dry enough that there's no... liquids. Dripping off it. Line the roasting pan with tinfoil, and plop the carrots and onions right on the bottom. This will make a nice nest for the roast, and provide an additional burst of flavor.
3. After placing the fowl in said nest, drizzle with olive oil to aid the browning, and season with salt and pepper. While you're at it, put the bay leaf into the cavity. Stick in the meat thermometer, and tent the whole kit and kaboodle with some more foil. Roast 2-3 hours depending on the size of your bird, checking the temperature every now and then.
Whatever you do: DO NOT trust those little pop-up thermometers! A pop-up thermometer contains a spring, held in place by a temperature-sensitive glue. When the glue reaches a certain temperature, it melts, and the spring pops up. At this point, most manufacturers are confident that the meat will be cooked to a point that is safe to eat, and somewhat edible. Just leave it be until carving time. (early removal results in a spew a juices)
4. When it's done, let rest for 15-30 minutes, and remove the bay leaf. It's given its all, and we don't want it in somebody's meal. Carve, and enjoy!

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