Thursday, December 8, 2016

Roast Chicken Is the Ultimate Cold-Weather Meal (or Three) and This Is How to Perfect It

Wait, how is it that I have never posted about the easy and wonderful and classic dish that is a simple proper full-on roast chicken? (Spoiler alert: It involves beer. You're welcome, America.) It might take

Here's what you do, gentle readers: After removing the gross little packet of entrails (save the contents to use for gravy, if you care to), pour a Budweiser tall-boy (we would also accept Tecate, Modelo, or two Corona bottles) into a gallon freezer bag, and put the raw chicken (like 2 to 3 pounds) into it, along with a few garlic cloves and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Wrap it in another plastic bag or put into a bowl to avoid any leakage, and store in the fridge overnight. (You could do it on the kitchen counter for an hour or two instead, but it really infuses the chicken with flavor and moisture if you do it overnight. Leaving it there a couple more days is fine as well.) The finished product doesn't taste of beer at all, swear—it just has an ineffable richness.

Yeah. I said "ineffable." What? Don't judge me. Do you want to eat delicious chicken or not?

When you're ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 400° and take the bird out of the fridge. Line a roasting pan with tinfoil and place a metal rack over it. (Doesn't have to cover the pan, just fit the bird; I usually use my short toaster-oven ones.) Open the Ziploc bag and pour the beer into the pan. This will continue to moisturize the chicken as it cooks.

Place the chicken on the rack. Stuff the cavity with wedges of lemon or orange and sprigs of the herb(s) of your choice—I like parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and/or tarragon (I'm considering recording a cover of the song to incorporate tarragon)—and maybe some garlic or wedged onion. Then carefully sever the membrane under/in the middle of the breast skin, using kitchen shears or a slender pointy knife. Even more gently, shove your hand right up under that skin and feel around in all directions to separate the skin from the breast and leg flesh. (This sensation may strike you as disgusting and/or erotic. That's between you and your God.) Then, slightly less gently, rub the meat under the skin with some coarse salt, and any chopped herbs and/or ground spices you like. Rub a little softened butter atop the skin (optional), and turn the bird upside down on the rack.

Roast at 400° for like 30 minutes, maybe less, then flip the bird (heh-heh, see what I did there) using tongs inserted in the cavity, so it's breast-side up (huh-huh, I said breast). If you have a baster or brush handy, lather some of that liquid in the pan onto the skin, but no worries if not. If the bottom looks way brown, turn the heat down to 350°-375°. Keep roasting for like 15 more minutes until the skin is brown and has some crisp to it. You also want to be able to wiggle the drumstick so that the skin connecting it to the breast tears easily. Don't worry, this won't affect the presentation.

Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest tented with foil for another 10-15 minutes. If you care to, you can place the roasting pan (minus rack) over a stove burner on medium heat and whisk some flour into the liquid to make gravy. Whisk in the drippings from the chicken after it's rested, too. You can whisk some milk or cream into that if you want to be really decadent; maybe add some chopped thyme or minced sage.

Just bringing the chicken out to the table on a platter or cutting board before you start slicing into it makes for a kind of a triumphal march, and makes everyone present feel like it's a holiday even if it's a random weekday. But if you can't be bothered, just carve it up in the kitchen and plate it and be done with it. Look, I'm not trying to tell you what to do.

That said: Usually I shred any leftover chicken and combine with mayo, curry powder, and diced onions, scallions, chives, or radishes to make curried chicken salad for sandwiches; then I use the carcass to make stock. (As pictured above, I sometimes make 2 chickens at once to ensure there are any leftovers, as this is often a dubious proposition.) This is a perfect fall-winter meal and a gift that keeps on giving—if you use the leftovers for sandwiches and make stock to freeze, you’re getting a dinner, a bunch of lunches, and untold amounts of soup, sauce, and so forth.

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