Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roast Chicken

75 Chickens a Year

Seriously. Three chickens, every other Friday night. At least I don't have to sear off the pin feathers the way my grandmother did.

For years, I brined them because Cooks Illustrated told me to. And it does work. But . . . How’d you like to open your fridge and see this?
Not digging the heads in the freezer vibe.
Or, worse, this . . .
I think she's coming for us!
(Apologies to my vegetarian friends. Did I mention,75 chickens?)
Also, they took up too much space in the fridge. And sloshing the brine all over the sink made me paranoid about salmonella. So I needed a different method.



1 4-6 lb. chicken
2 spring onions, or green tops from 4 spring onions
4 garlic cloves
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 t mustard seeds (optional)
2 1/2 t kosher salt
1-2 t dijon mustard
3 T olive oil

(You might also add half a lemon, seeded and chopped, if you're up for lemon chicken.)

Put the onions, garlic, pepper, optional mustard seeds and salt in the bowl of your food processor. I use the small bowl on my processor, but the large one will work. Pulse a few times to chop and combine. Scrape down the sides if you have big chunks of garlic or unincorporated salt.
Add oil and mustard, and pulse several more times to make a creamy paste.
Now, don't be squeamish! It's just chicken, and you'll wash your hands after. But before you're elbow-deep, take off your rings.

First, remove the giblets. (Try not to dwell on the fact that all chickens sold by the pound have two livers, three hearts, and four gizzards.) Usually, there is also a pad of fat inside the thigh. Here's your chance to make schmaltz! Or not. Anyway, you don't need it, so pull it out.
Take your fingers, and slide them under the skin. You are making space to spread the seasoning on the meat, so try to separate the skin from the breasts, thighs and legs as much as possible without tearing it.

Scoop up a bit of the onion-garlic paste in one hand, hold the skin away from the bird with the other, and push the seasoning under the skin of the bird.

Hold the flap down, and squeeze the paste under the skin over the meat. Make sure that the breasts have the most seasoning, since they are most prone to drying out.

Once you have spread all the seasoning under the skin, you can leave your chicken covered in the fridge for a day, or cook it right away.

Maybe you are the kind of person who just loves to do dishes. Maybe you put your roasting rack right in the dishwasher. Personally, I would rather have another side dish than wash the rack. So I put a couple of carrots worth of chunks per person in the bottom of my pan and throw a little salt on them. You could use celery, onions, potatoes, whatever. It's basically going to braise in the chicken drippings.

Put the chicken on top of the carrots (or veggies, or roasting rack) breast side down. Supermarket chickens are bred to be busty, not tasty, so you have to protect those big bosoms from drying out in the hot oven.
Okay, so how long should you cook this chicken? Until it's done, of course. No two chickens are the same. No two ovens are the same. We might have the same pan . . . but probably not. Here's what I do.

Roast at 400 for one hour and thirty minutes. Then take tongs or a fork and flip the bird over so that the breast side is up. When the breast gets brown, reach in and wiggle a drumstick. If it feels like it's still standing at attention, keep cooking. If it's relaxed, you're there. If this provides you with insufficient information, the USDA would like you to reach 168 on a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the thigh.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil. Pour off and save the drippings and return the carrots to the oven. Kick the temperature up to 425 to brown the carrots, keeping an eye on them so that they don't burn. I like carrots a little charred on the edges, but take them out earlier if you prefer them soft. When the drippings have separated, do your best to pour off the fat and put the rest in a little pitcher with a saucer under it (if you have better things to do than spend tomorrow spot-treating the table cloth).

While I am absolutely positive that your guests are always on time, around here the dinner hour is kind of a moving target. If you have a double oven, you can leave the chickens in there on the lowest temperature possible, ideally 175. Once you carve it, the chicken starts to dry out, so try to slice just before serving. If people are late, put the carved chicken under foil back in the oven. Give them dirty looks and sigh loudly.

Note: Cut the salt in half for a kosher chicken, which is already salted.


  1. you're awesome. your food blog is awesome. now i know how to roast a chicken...if only i ate you!!!

    1. Thanks! Love you, too, Indiana!