New Year’s Resolution – Master a Roasted Chicken

Roasting chicken is an unnecessarily daunting task, and for every person I know that has mastered it, there are ten who haven’t quite grasped it, or even tried at all.  Not only is it easy to prepare with a little practice, it creates an elegant presentation for guests, or a bounty of leftovers if feeding only one or two.  Roast chicken is also wonderful because it pairs with pretty much anything, and can be dressed up or down depending on your mood and energy levels.  The following two menus take about the same amount of time to prepare, but the simpler one will give you more time to relax or prepare for guests, and the second one will provide a more robust meal, albeit with a little more prep work and hands-on time.

Before we move on to the actual recipe, I want to state my one and only unbreakable rule for cooking: Read all the ingredients and directions first.  Before you go to the grocery store, before you start cooking, before you even start thinking you might want to make this meal! It will save you a lot of time and frustration, and in the long run help you develop a sense of timing and difficulty when you read recipes.

Shake says: Pair either menu with a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc for white wine lovers or Pinot Noir for those who prefer red. To change things up on the weekend, enjoy this meal with a bottle of Cava or Brut leftover from the holidays! Sparkling wine perfectly complements dark thigh meat and the potatoes, asparagus, and any desire to feel fancy.

Simple Chicken Dinner Menu

Oven Roasted Chicken

Green Salad with Vinaigrette

Bread

Sauce’s Cheat: Instant yellow rice adds a quick and easy starch

Ingredients List – 

For the Simple Menu:

Chicken:

  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into small (1 in.) chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into small chunks
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Specialty Item: Kitchen Twine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For the Salad and Dressing:

  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup champagne, white, or red wine vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. honey
  • Pinch of salt

A Note on Bread

As much as I love to cook, we all live in the real world, and whether that involves, work, kids, marriage, pets or video games, sometimes we need a shortcut here and there.  My favorite shortcut involves bake-at-home bread-I freeze it until I need it, and it comes out looking and smelling like a fresh loaf in under ten minutes.  Our household practically requires bread at every meal, so until I get to the point that I’m capable of making 4-6 loaves a week, I’ll keep my modern luxuries.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and adjust rack to middle.
  2. Prep lemon, onion, and garlic.  You are going to stuff all these tender morsels into cavity of the bird, so try and get them roughly the same size, about that of a large garlic clove.  To smash the garlic, gently press the flat side of a chef’s knife until you hear a crunch. Don’t annihilate it; just release some of that garlicky goodness.
  3. img_0744Remove the bird from the packaging and rinse gently under cold water to get the weird off, noting the weight.  Note: I recommend keeping latex gloves on hand for handling raw meat, especially chicken.  It greatly cuts down on contamination issues, and keeps you from drying your hands out washing them every 13 seconds.
  4. Remove giblets and neck if present (reserve neck and heart in a ziplock in the freezer for gravy making purposes if you’re feeling ambitious).  
  5. Pat dry with paper towels.  
  6. img_0761Stuff with equal parts lemon, onion, and garlic in the cavity until full.  
  7. Truss the bird. WHOA, right, we were doing easy stuff like slicing lemons and patting chickens with paper towels. Calm down, this is easy.  If you want to get fancy, there are a thousand tutorials and stories about how to use a trussing needle and the fact that you’ll never be anybody if you don’t do it like every French baby can (it’s a natural skill there, like breathing) but in reality, you can fake it easier than you tie your shoes.  You will need cooking twine, but that’s the only special thing besides a basic sense of coordination.  Anyway, on to the task at hand:
  8. Cut yourself about a 14 inches of twine.  Holding it evenly in both hands, wrap it over the breasts and wingtips so they stay tucked in close.  
  9. img_0773img_0776img_0782Twist twine underneath chicken (like you’re tying ribbon on a present) and bring back up around the skinny part of the drumstick (chicken ankle?).  Wrap in figure 8 so chicken ankles draw together, then tie off in knot of your choice.  Since I already assumed you could tie your shoes and you kept reading, I’m again going to assume you can figure that bit out for yourself.
  10. Rub with light drizzle of olive oil (none should pool in the joints, but skin should glisten nicely) and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.  It should look like snow sparkling in the sun, not a glitter disco ball.img_0844img_0865
  11. Place in roasting pan on a bed of onions.  You can also use thick slices of French bread in the bottom of a skillet, which produces something that is best described as half stuffing, half crouton. It’s Sauce’s favorite way to roast chicken.
  12. Whatever vessel you have chosen, it is now time to put the chicken in the oven. Calculate your cooking time at 20 minutes for every pound, plus 20 minutes-so a 5lb bird will take 2 hours, whereas a 3 pounder will take less than an hour an a half.  Keep that in mind when purchasing your bird, since the greater yield may not be worth the time.  Timing is also an estimation-it’s the best way to start out, but pay attention to sounds, smells, and colors along the way to start getting a better feel for things.img_0874
  13. Start the timer!
  14. Slice or dice shallots and garlic.  I like to use an immersion blender to get a smooth texture, so I chop pretty lazily, but if you do not have that technology I recommend dicing the ingredients as fine as possible.  Combine in small bowl with mustard and vinegar and let marinate until ready to combine other ingredients.
  15. Wash and cut lettuce into bite sized pieces.  Lay out to dry, or use a salad spinner.  I personally prefer the salad spinner when I have the fridge space, because the basket is excellent for storing leftover washed greens.  You can prep an entire head of lettuce and use it until its gone-lettuce lasts much longer in the spinner than in the bag.
  16. Check the timer.  Subtract ten minutes from the remaining time.  Go find something else to do for that amount of time.  Suggestions: set the table, open wine, pour wine, call your mother, kiss your spouse, pour wine for your spouse, tell your spouse to pour wine for you, walk the dog, write a haiku about how pleased you are to successfully roast a chicken; I don’t care, but do anything besides open the oven every five minutes.  Or at all.
  17. Ten minutes before the timer says the chicken should be done, check the thickest part of the thigh with an instant read thermometer.  If you don’t have one, trust your math and cross your fingers. Remove the chicken when the internal temp goes above 160° F.
  18. Add oil, salt, and honey to salad dressing.  Whisk vigorously with fork or blend with immersion blender.  Adjust ratios to taste-remember, I’m giving you very simple guidelines here, and everybody has their own preferences.  Too sweet for some is positively astringent for others, so trust yourself.  Make what you like first, and worry about everybody else later.  You have to find what makes you happy before you can please others-words to live by, really.
  19. Remove chicken from oven when ready, and cover loosely with foil, so the chicken is covered completely but the foil isn’t touching the skin, otherwise it can lose some crispiness. Set timer for 10 minutes.img_0937
  20. If having, put bread in oven and turn up to 400° F or stated temperature on package.
  21. Toss salad and put in serving bowl if using.  Or eat out of the mixing bowl with your fork, I don’t’ judge.
  22. 2 minutes before end of timer, remove bread and wrap in clean kitchen towel or foil.  Turn off oven and put in dinner plates to warm.  Leave door partially open so the oven can cool a little, and proceed with caution when removing the plates, as they will get very hot very quickly.  Tough fingers are helpful in cooking, but I don’t suggest trying to develop them all at once.
  23. If you didn’t listen to me earlier, or nobody listened to you, open the wine.  Chef bonus: Taste for quality
  24. At the end of the ten minute timer, remove foil from chicken and retrieve the hot plates from the oven.  Carve chicken in quarters, starting by slicing into the thighs (a clear sign the chicken is done is if the joint separates fairly easily) and then slicing along the breastbone and along the ribs to free the breast.  Our household is strictly divided on the light/dark meat issue, so I don’t have to cut it apart farther than that.  If you need a more egalitarian division, just make sure you’re keeping the pieces skin side up and plating as quickly as possible to keep that crispy golden exterior from getting soggy from all those delicious juices your chicken will be exuding.  img_0961img_0975
  25. Serve plated chicken alongside breadbasket and salad.  Allow guests and family to serve themselves bread and greens while you pour wine or water.  Enjoy!!!

 

Weekend Chicken Dinner

Oven Roasted Chicken

Green Salad with Vinaigrette

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

Roasted Potatoes

Bread

Ingredients List:

For the Chicken:

  • 6 cloves garlic, gently smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into small (1 in.) chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into small chunks
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Specialty Item: Kitchen Twine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For the Salad and Dressing:

  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup champagne, white, or red wine vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. honey
  • Pinch of salt

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, the thinner the better
  • 3oz prosciutto
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Roasted Potatoes:

  • 1 lb baby potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

If there is any confusion or seeming lack of information, please reference the Simple Chicken Dinner instructions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and adjust rack to middle.
  2. Quarter potatoes and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and enough salt to be visible but not coated.  Put on rimmed, foil lined baking sheet.img_0902img_0914
  3. Prep lemon, onion, and garlic.  If you’re feeling sassy because you already conquered the simple dinner, or just want to add an extra touch because you have the time, toss those bad boys in a little olive oil and salt before you stuff them.
  4. Put water on to boil for asparagus.  Add generous pinch of salt.
  5. -Remove the bird from the packaging and rinse gently under cold water to get the weird off, noting the weight.  Note: If you only like some of my ideas and didn’t listen to the latex glove one, I recommend keeping hand lotion next to the sink. The one I use my husband turned me onto when we both worked on cars, so it’s pretty stellar for any situation.  To each their own, but find something. Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve $15.00
  6. Remove giblets and neck if present (keep freezing them!).  
  7. Pat dry with paper towels.  
  8. Stuff equal parts lemon, onion, and garlic in the cavity until full.  
  9. Truss the bird. It worked the way I told you last time right? If not, do what I did; try something else until it works, short of mummifying the thing with twine.  Jacques Pépin will still never see this.
  10. Place in roasting pan on rack or bed of onions.  Or try the bread and skillet plan! Hint hint.
  11. Put the chicken in the oven. Calculate your cooking time at 20 minutes for every pound, plus 20 minutes.
  12. Start the chicken timer, plus an extra timer for the potatoes.  The covered potatoes go in the oven under the chicken when there is about an hour left, so plan accordingly (you managed the math in the last post, so I feel confident in once again assigning you this task of simple arithmetic. Thinking is good for you anyway).
  13. Slice or dice shallots and garlic. Combine in small bowl with mustard and vinegar and let marinate until ready to combine other ingredients.
  14. Cut off tough asparagus ends and wash. Prepare ice bath by filling a large bowl at least half full with ice and the rest of the way with cold water.
  15. Place entire bunch of asparagus in boiling water at the same time. Blanch (which is a fancy word for boil for a short time) for 1-2 minutes.  The asparagus should bend slightly when removed from the water with tongs, but the water should not turn green-that’s the sweet spot.
  16. When the asparagus reaches the previously mentioned point of perfection, quickly remove it from the stove and plunge into the ice bath to stop cooking.  Leave to cool.
  17. Wash and cut lettuce into bite sized pieces.  Dry.
  18. Dry asparagus thoroughly with paper towels.  Toss with a scant amount of olive oil and salt, just enough to barely coat and leave a visible sprinkle, since the prosciutto adds extra salty deliciousness.
  19. Line baking sheet with foil.  Peel individual prosciutto pieces away from wax paper, stacking pieces loosely as you go.  When they’re all unwrapped, slice in half lengthwise.  Working with one to two pieces of asparagus at a time, depending on thickness, wrap a piece of prosciutto around the length of each stalk as nicely as you can.  I give you permission to eat those pernicious pieces that refuse to cooperate.img_0930
  20. Put the potatoes in when the chicken has just under an hour left. Set timer for 20 minutes.
  21. When potato timer dings, quickly remove the foil and place back in oven.  
  22. The potatoes should be crispy about the time the chicken is done, but check them during the last ten minutes when you temp the chicken.  Remove the chicken when the internal temp goes above 160° F.
  23. Add oil, salt, and honey to salad dressing.  Whisk vigorously with fork or blend with immersion blender.
  24. Remove chicken from oven when ready, and cover loosely with foil, so the chicken is covered completely but the foil isn’t touching the skin, otherwise it can lose some crispiness. Set timer for 10 minutes.
  25. If having, put bread in oven and turn up to 400° F or stated temperature on package.
  26. Toss salad and put in serving bowl if using.  
  27. Eight minutes into the timer, remove the bread and turn the oven to high broil (that’s how long my favorite frozen bread takes, adjust as necessary or use a second oven if you have it).  Broil asparagus for 2-5 minutes on the top rack, and put the plates on the bottom rack to warm.
  28. Open wine, or tell somebody else to because you’re working.
  29. Remove asparagus when ends are slightly charred and prosciutto is starting to get crispy.  Turn off oven and remove plates.
  30. When the ten minute timer and the asparagus are done, remove foil from chicken and carve into desired servings.  Plate as you go to keep skin crispy, and add a few spears of asparagus and a scoop of potatoes to each plate before serving.  
  31. Serve plated meal alongside breadbasket and salad.  Allow guests and family to serve themselves bread and greens while you pour wine or water.  Enjoy!!!

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