Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To Roast A Chicken

I realize that the number of recipes for chicken out on the Internet are limitless, sometimes viewed as over done if not redundant. This does not render them useless providing they are accurate and offer some new and useful information.

For example this blog has come to include some very basic recipes and methods out of my desire to reveal the fundamentals of some obvious recipes; some which are still difficult to consistently master, some not so common but basic and recently popular (fermenting is coming up) and some, like this one (roasting a chicken) which while common can be used as a platform for discussing some very useful and important topics and current global issues. That's right! Roasting a chicken can be as intriguing as delicious.
A juicy chicken trussed and roasted.
I used the optinal 2 teaspoons of one of my favorite spice blends mixed into
the olive oil and butter mixture used for basting:
Tango Mango Hot Habanero Spice made by Kitschy Chic

1, 5-6 pound chicken, previously brined
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
(optional) 2 teaspoons of your favorite spice blend which has little to no added salt.
1 lemon, cut in half
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 sprigs of fresh marjoram

3 lbs. fingerling potatoes, washed (alternately use baby Yukon, red and or purple varieties)
4 large carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
4 large shallots, trimmed, peeled and cut in half
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher or Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Approximate cooking time 60 minutes.

  • Liberally pepper inside the cavity of your chicken. Then stuff in your sprigs of fresh thyme and marjoram, the garlic and lemon 1/2's.
  • Truss or tie the legs of your chicken together with butcher's twine and tuck the wing tips under the body. 
Note: Be sure to check out my post on a trick I learned for "trussing" when you don't have any twine- To Truss A Bird Without Twine- which is the method I used for the pictures in this recipe.
  • Brush your chicken all over with the olive oil and butter mixture (if using the optional 2 teaspoons of spice blend add this to the olive oil and butter mixture and mix well. Then brush your chicken).

  • Now place your chicken breast side up into your roasting pan with a roasting rack. If you do not have a roasting rack you can simply place the chicken (breast side up) straight into your oven pan. Alternately you may prefer to use a cast iron skillet, casserole dish or other oven proof vessel.
  • Put your chicken in the oven on a centered rack. Set your timer for 30 minutes.
  • If you are going to be adding the Optional Vegetables (listed above): Place the vegetables and sprigs of fresh thyme in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and season then toss them to coat evenly. Have the bowl handy by your stove for adding to the roasting pan in a later step.
  • After 30  minutes remove your chicken from the oven and brush the chicken with the olive oil and butter mixture.

  • Toss your vegetables into the pan nestling them in a single layer around the chicken. Return the chicken to the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes more remove the chicken and check the temperature. Insert the thermometer diagonally into one of the breasts starting at the tip or leg end aiming into the neck end. Next insert your thermometer into the thigh piercing at the knee joint aiming towards the hip. We want to remove our chicken at 160 degrees Fahrenheit allowing the residual heat to finish cooking the bird as it rests. If your chicken is not ready (which it most likely is not) return your chicken to the oven and continue to roast it using this equation: 1 2/ minutes for every degree needed to raise the internal temp to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (this equation is not fool proof or proven to be perfect! It is just a rough estimte whic has worked for me. As you are nearing the desired temperature of your bird it is best to keep an eye on your roast and check it frequently with a thermometer).
Note: In this recipe and method I am using a chicken which was subjected to a brine. The cooking time will be much shorter for a brined bird than one which was not. If you are not following this recipe with a brined bird your cooking time could need an additional 15-20 minutes of cooking (this recipe estimates 55-60 minutes cooking for a brined bird).

  • After additional roasting (if needed) pull your bird out of the oven and check the internal temperature once again. Once you have reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit allow your chicken to rest for 15 minutes while it finishes cooking. Turn off your oven.

  • During the resting period you can remove you vegetables from the roasting pan or skillet and keep them warm in you oven. Just be sure to put them in an oven safe dish and be careful using oven mitts or a dry dish towel when removing them for your feast.
  • After the resting period remove your butcher's twine (if used) and transfer your beautiful chicken to a serving platter for the table. Alternately, you could carve the chicken plating the meat decoratively for platter service. This is great practice for Thanksgiving when all eyes are on you while you carve a grand bird for the occasion.
  • Turn off the TV and ban electronic devices from the dinner table. As you eat allow everyone at the table to do a bit if sharing among the family or friends.
  • Enjoy!

Let me talk about chicken, meat and leaning about labeling

Consider what I have to say in regards to your whole diet; the food you buy which is who you are supporting, what you are putting into your body, the ultimate dining experience you will receive from buying better foods and finally the example you are setting for your children and those close to you whom you may influence.

If you are going to spend the time and energy to prepare a delicious meal, please consider the investment you make when  purchasing the ingredients. Two main obstacles, or arguments come to my mind when I suggest buying a chicken which is Organic, Free Range and/or Humane.

The first obstacle for most when approaching "whole foods" is the idea that the price is substantially greater than the average mass farmed and processed foods. Sure, side by side there is a noticeable price difference between an organic, free range chicken and a mass processed caged, hormone fed animal but you get what you pay for and we are what we eat. Many of today's health issues and concerns stem from the food industry which raises and mass processes animals for consumption. Smaller, sustainable and humane ranches take pride in their practices which ensures quality of life and product. In the long run the investment you make will pay off in a better experience.

The second issue which people who are new to purchasing "whole foods" face is the somewhat overwhelming choices and labels of such foods; Organic, Free Range, Cage Free, Sustainable, Humane, Natural, etc. The list goes on and many times a few of these labels will accompany each other making the total number of choices overwhelming.

When I first began to work with organic and more natural foods I was a little intimidated but more frustrated at what seemed to be unclear lines of definition. One day after much griping and resistance I found myself speaking the language and understanding the many labels as if through osmosis. It really just came down to submersing myself in the information (whether I got it or not) and asking questions. Finally it sinks in. It just takes some time to grasp all of the many offerings out there.

I was working in restaurants while I was learning about 'whole foods' and so there were many more resources for me to rely on. However many of the best resources which I still use to this day are available, for free, to any and all who care to become educated on this topic:

Farmers Markets- One of the best and certainly most fun places to learn about the many definitions of farming and production practices is at your local farmers market. Admission is free and I can pretty much guarantee that all the stand operators there will be more than happy to answer you questions and guide you through their own processes. The great thing about a farmers market is that in one location you have purveyors of various food products and different production techniques willing to share information and sell you their goods. In one market you will find the spectrum of practices from conventional to certified organic. Many farmers markets these also have purveyors of fresh fish and meats who have some very interesting selections available. Again, they are there to interest and help you become a fan of the market so any questions you have will be happily answered.

Ask your Butcher- Almost gone are the days of the neighborhood butcher but the relationship between you and a butcher is only limited by the lack of interaction. Every market, Whole Foods style or traditional corporate style has a meat section where you will find a butcher willing to help. Simply asking a general question like, "what is the difference between free range and cage free?" or "why and what is this all about?" will spark a tutorial in the offerings displayed in front of you. Like the purveyors and the farmers markets, these butchers want to encourage you to have the best possible experience with them and their products in hope that you will remember and return. By helping you, you will most likely help them in return. Take advantage of their knowledge and service and make a friend. In a week or a month you will hear someone in line asking their friend a question you now know the answer to and you will feel the power of knowledge rise in you as you wonder if it would be too forward of you to help them yourself. And no, it wouldn't be precocious of you. So strike up a conversation.

For some quick reference terminology I have included some helpful links with some authority on the subject.

Free Range and other meat and poultry terms-

What do "free range", "organic" and other chicken labels really mean?-

Egg Caron Labels : The Humane Society of the United States

Food Labels- Animal Welfare Approved

Why Packaged Foods Are Evil- Food Renegade

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