Wednesday 10 December 2014

Perfect Roast Chicken

There is something so grand and elegant about roasting a whole chicken that it never fails to bring a big smile of cheer to everyone's face in my family. Golden brown, crisp and gleaming in all its glory, its a big moment of celebration for my kids, when the showstopper is brought out, to be placed royally in the center of the table, vainly soaking in all the attention(I can almost hear the trumpets blowing!!). Everybody eagerly and most importantly, patiently waits to get a piece of their choice while I get my tools (sharpest knife) out and struggle(read literally fight) to carve it out. Yes, till date carving a whole chicken is a skill I haven't been able to achieve perfection in. 
But lot of times I do wonder does this dish really deserve all this special attention ( I had not thought it did so up until this very moment) or is it just a hyped piece of meat wanting to create a stir because of its good looks?
This is not the first time that I am making a whole roasted chicken. I have tried it on several occasions earlier but never to my own satisfaction. Check out the Roasted Chicken I made in 2011, Though each time, my family absolutely loved it but somehow, something was always missing in there for me. I always felt as if there was this one thing lacking that I could not put my finger on, sometimes the flavors a little too bland for my liking, unable to steep right till the insides, sometimes the flesh a little tough or just not quite done.
But......Its been a long time since then and I feel I have come a long way, improvising, learning from my mistakes, reading, experimenting and adapting myself to newer techniques and methods.
To perfect this particular recipe I surfed the net for my quest for a perfectly roasted chicken!! After a couple of hours I actually understood how Ina Garten's Roasted Chicken came out so perfect, made a mental note of the do's and dont's advocated by Thomas Keller while roasting the chicken and was amazed by how simple The Pioneer Woman made her recipe to be. 
Well!! My recipe is inspired by these great people and I have tried to incorporate a little bit from each of their recipes. Believe me!! The end result was an absolute winner - a perfectly roasted chicken (at last!!) with not only had a superbly brown crispy skin, but a beautiful moist and juicy flesh with a real punch of flavor all the way through till deep inside - something that left me feeling satisfied and very proud of myself.
A few things to keep in mind before you begin if you are looking for great results:-
First is do brine the chicken. I found that brining the chicken for a couple of hours really helps to bring out the flavors in the bird and help to keep it moist and juicy. 
Secondly, make sure you rub the marinade all over the chicken, including under the skin and wings. The butter (you can use olive oil too) rubbed on the outside of the skin along with the salt and pepper encourages browning and enhances the flavor all over. 
Truss the chicken as it keeps the chicken compact for roasting.
One other important thing I have learned to use here in the U.S is the use of a Meat Thermometer to check for doneness of the meat. This is something which all meat lovers should have.
Finally do rest your chicken for at least 15-20 minutes, even though you might feel like attacking it the moment it is out of the ovenso that all its juices are soaked in by the skin giving you a moist flavorful chicken.

So, its your turn now!! Are you ready for the show?
Bon Appetit!!

For Brining the chicken:
6 cups warm water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, crushed
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger

For the Roasted Chicken:
1 (5 to 6 pounds) roasting chicken
kosher salt
1/2 cup softened butter
4 sprigs Rosemary
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp dried Thyme
4 whole lemons
freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoon (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2 inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed and cut into wedges,
4 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Remove the chicken giblets.
To brine the chicken, combine all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to a boil. Stir till the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Pour the brine in a 2 gallon resealable plastic bag and add the chicken. Squeeze out as much air as possible; Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, turning several times. In case you don't have a resealable plastic bag, simply place the chicken in the brine solution in a big pan.
Discard brine. Rinse chicken thoroughly with water. Pat dry the inside and outside with paper towels really well. The less it steams, the crispier the skin of your chicken is going to be.
Put the butter in a bowl. Zest up at least two lemons and mix the zest with the softened butter. Strip off a bunch of Rosemary leaves and add into the butter. In case you can't get fresh leaves don't ya worry, use dried Rosemary leaves. Add in the minced garlic, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.
Smear the butter liberally on the skin of the chicken and then gently massage the chicken all over with your fingers. Don't forget to smear it under the skin and inside the cavity and the nooks and corners under the wings and thighs,
Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top. Now, sprinkle some salt all over the chicken so that it has a nice uniform coating. This will help to give the skin a nice crisp, salty, flavorful skin. 
Stuff the cavity with a bunch of thyme leaves, cut lemon wedges, cut garlic, and onion.
Tie both the legs together with a kitchen string and tuck the wings tips under the body of the chicken. This is also called 'trussing the bird'. Trussing helps the wings and legs to stay close to the body, helping the chicken to cook evenly, not to mention it results in a beautiful elegant looking bird.
Place the onions, carrots and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt and pepper.
Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the trussed chicken breast side up on top.
Roast the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperatures to 375 F and continue roasting until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into between the breast and inner thigh(be careful to not to touch the bone) reads 165 F about 50 minutes to 1 hour more. Skin would be a beautiful deep golden brown color by now and the sizzling juices music to your ears.
Remove the chicken and vegetables from the oven into a platter and cover with a aluminium foil to rest for 20 minutes. Letting the chicken 'rest' gives the juices to settle down so that they soak into your meat and make it more flavorful instead of just flowing out into the cutting board.
No more waiting.....its time to dig in!!
Feel great and glorify in all the words of appreciation you get from your family members and guests. I am sure no one would guess how easy it was to make it.

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