Thursday, April 4, 2013
Really Easy Roast Chicken
One of fundamental reasons that people don't cook is that they think it's difficult. Fussy. They think you have to know things to be a good cook, be part of an inner circle. The truth is that you really don't have to know a lot. You do need a decent recipe and a tiny tiny sense of confidence or adventure or homeyness, or a combination thereof. And maybe a small child to hang off of your leg, because I hear that that is kind of like a cooking talisman.
It took me many years into my cooking life to even attempt to roast a whole chicken. I mean, that was big-time--like Thanksgiving or something, right? Nope. Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest, most wonderful meals you can make.
I present this roast chicken recipe because it's the easiest I've found and it turns out a butt-kicking chicken--moist, golden-skinned, flavorful. The other great thing about roasting a chicken is that you usually get some good leftovers you can use in salads or burritos the next day. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can even attempt your own broth (it's easy; just throw it in the crock pot after dinner, cover in water, and strain out the liquid before bed. Done). But you don't have to make broth if that scares you. Just make chicken.
Basically, you will get your oven really hot, you will slather your bird in butter, salt, and pepper, and then you will cook it breast side up for an hour. That's it. It's easy.
What you need:
-A THAWED bird
-Salt and pepper
-An hour and 15 minutes (you don't have to DO anything during this time, mind you, but you have to be in your house)
-An instant read thermometer (maybe not essential, but very helpful, especially for a novice cook)
What you can have:
-Lemon or orange (this is supposed to keep it moist)
Why People Fuss:
-You do have to thaw the bird. Have I mentioned this? You can buy a fresh one, but if you buy frozen, that baby has to be thawed. I do this by putting it in a bowl of water and putting that in the fridge overnight.
-Time. It does take a good hour to cook your chicken. A mere five minutes of prep, but a good hour of cooking time. If you get home from work at 7:00 and want to eat NOW, that is a problem, but otherwise, it's easy to multitask around your cooking bird. (And you can totally rock a chicken in a crock pot too, but this post is about roasting one.)
-Do I have to brine it? No. Not with this recipe anyway. There's gonna be plenty of salt and it's just a small little guy, so you'll be fine without brining.
-Will I burn down my house? It is unlikely, even with the small child leg hanging talisman.
-Why is my oven so hot for this? I'm sure I will dry it out or burn down the house. This bird is probably going to explode in my oven isn't it? No. I don't know why the high heat works, but it really really does. Do it.
-Do I have to touch a raw chicken? Yes, yes you do. I'm sorry, but unless you have a very loving spouse who will do it for you, this is part of roasting a bird. You have to get all cozy with its raw self and possibly remove the neck and some innards (don't worry; most are in a bag if they're there at all).
-What ever will I serve with it? Potatoes, people. And maybe some broccoli if you want.
Really Easy Roast Chicken
adapted from here
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Rest time: 10 minutes
chicken: $5.00, lemon: .30, butter: .25, garlic: .05
5 to 6 pound chicken, THAWED (have I emphasized that enough?)
1 lemon, halved or pricked several times with a sharp knife
4 garlic cloves, crushed and/or sliced
3-4 Tbsp butter
salt salt salt
Place rack on second level from bottom. Heat oven to 500 degrees (450 in a convection oven per the original post for this).
Take out the neck and giblets (you don't have to cut anything off--just remove them from the cavity where your loving butcher has stuffed them because some people like them or use them in stock or gravy; you don't have to, but that's why it's there)
Stuff the cavity (that's the hollow part of the bird where you probably just took out a neck and some innards) with the lemon and garlic and maybe a tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle a very good dose of salt and pepper into the cavity (I'm thinking 1/4-1/2 tsp salt--you won't end up eating it all; most will run off, but it will help flavor the bird).
Rub the chicken with the remaining butter. Get it good. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Be generous with your salt. Sprinkle it over all surfaces of the bird (again, you won't end up eating all of this, but it will season the bird).
Place the chicken BREAST SIDE UP in a roasting pan (or Dutch oven or 9x13 inch pan or whatever can handle high heat; roasting pans can be intimidating, huh?). Be sure there's a nice dollop of butter on the bottom part (where the bird meets the pan) to help it not stick too bad when it's done. Put it in the oven legs first and roast 50-60 minutes. Take it out when the juices run clear or when you can stick an instant read thermometer in any part of its little birdy body and have that thermometer come out at 160 or higher. In a neurotic way I poke that thing all over the place, but if you want to be less violent, you can google how to test the temp of a bird and just poke it in one or two places.
When it's done, take it out of the pan and let it rest covered in aluminum foil for 10 minutes. Resting lets the juices distribute evenly throughout the bird.
If you want, you can take the drippings and make a gravy with them. I keep this really easy. Remove all the liquid drippings and scrape off the browned bits at the bottom of your pan because they're awesomeness. Bring this to a boil in a saucepan. Mix 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch with 2-4 Tbsp water. When the drippings/broth are boiling, add the cornstarch/water, whisking until thickened to the desired thickness. That's it.