I have always been intrigued by why people find roast chicken so appealing. To my indian taste buds that are used to spicy chicken curries, roast chicken seemed like a bland, dry, white piece of chicken meat – minimal colors, minimal flavors and minimal smells.
Every November, when the internet buzzes with “thanksgiving turkey sales and recipes”, my interest for a roasted bird invariably piques.
Finally, this November, I succumbed to peer pressure from unknown entities of the net, and decided to try my hand at a roast bird – the chicken.
After having waded through tens of hundreds of recipe sites and review comments, I came up with my version of a perfectly succulent and flavorful roast chicken. It had all the drama – loads of color, flavor, juices and smells…and I have to confess that the smell of a roast chicken in the oven (with loads of rosemary), on a cold November day, beats all the curry smells that I so firmly believed in.
After many a flops, I soon discovered that chicken is one of the most difficult meats to cook. It dries easily because of the low fat content. It cooks unevenly because chicken has both : white meat that can cook fast and then begin to dry and dark meat that takes longer to cook.
One easy way to fix a lot of the problems was to brine the whole bird overnight. That helps hydrate the meat and renders it succulent and flavorful.
Brine the chicken –
To make a brine solution, mix 1 gallon of tap water with ¾ cup salt, ¾ cup soya sauce and 2/3 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve.
Immerse the whole chicken with skin in the brine solution and keep covered in the fridge overnight – upto 24 hours.
Remove the chicken and pat it dry.
Roast chicken –
1 whole chicken with skin on. (preferably brined overnight)
garlic – about 15-20 cloves
lemons – 2
rosemary – a big handful
seasoning – salt, pepper, paprika/chilli powder
onion – 2 chopped into big pieces
celery – 2 large stems – chopped into big chunks
strips of bacon
To make Vegetables on the side-
Potatoes, carrots, onions – 2 -3 of each cut into roughly same large chunks, generously seasoned with salt, pepper and lots of rosemary and olive oil
Preparing the Chicken for roasting:
1) Rub olive oil over the entire chicken and then season it generously with salt, pepper and parika. You should season on the outside as well as in the cavity.
2) Add crushed garlic and chopped up rosemary (about 20 sprigs) to the butter and mix well. Push the butter under the skin of the chicken at various different points. Be careful that you don’t tear the skin. The butter will melt and provide moisture to the chicken as it cooks.
3) Stuff the cavity of the chicken with onions, celery, a whole garlic pod, lemon and lots of rosemary.
4) Tie the legs together so that they are close to the body.
5) Pour lemon juice ( about 2 lemons worth) over the entire chicken and then keep the chicken breast side up on a tray that will go into your preheated oven of 350 F. I cover the breasts with strips of bacon. This helps keep the breasts from drying up and the juices of the bacon add more depth to the dish.
I generally surround the chicken with seasons vegetables (potatoes, carrots and onions). The juices of the chicken that ooze over the vegetables and make them yummy!
7) As I place the chicken into the preheated oven, I pour 1 cup of water over the chicken. This helps keep the chicken moist.
8) The rule of thumb for cooking chicken is 20 mins for every 1 pound of chicken at 350F. So I generally keep a 2-3 pound of chicken for about 40 mins to an hour. After the first 20 mins, turn over the chicken so that the breasts are at the base of the pan. Keep basting the chicken with the juices collected at the bottom every 10 mins.
Once the chicken is done (you need to feel it, or check the internal temperature or go with the rule of 20 mins per pound), remove the chicken and keep covered for about 15 mins to rest. This resting time is crucial as it allows the internal juices to settle.
Remove the vegetables, and check for seasoning.
9)You can drain the liquid at the base of the pan, thicken with a little butter or cornstarch serve as gravy along with the chicken.
By the time the chicken is done, your house will be filled with the wonderful smell of rosemary and the roast chicken. My dear dog goes quite mad with the smell. She is frantically running from the kitchen to the dining room to back to see how and where she can get her share!!! yummmm!
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