May 06, 2005

Lazy Roast Chicken

There may be no rest for the wicked, but the lazy can still enjoy a darn good roast chicken. I’ve seen (and made) many variations on your basic, garden variety roast chicken over the last twenty years or so. I’ve brined, and stuffed, and butterflied, and cooked upside-down for half the time. I’ve put butter between the skin and the meat, I’ve trussed, I’ve basted, and employed an exciting variety of herbs, sauces, rubs, and quirky temperature adjusting. Lid on. Lid off. Most of these ways work perfectly well, but my standard lazy roast chicken is a mighty fine dish on its own.

It’s not really a recipe, more a set of directions and suggestions. I use a basic broiler/fryer for most of my roast chickens – they’re cheaper than “roaster” chickens (albeit smaller) and fit nicely into my cast iron frying pan.

This is what I do:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. While the oven is heating up, rinse the chicken under cool water, allow to drain (just hold it over the sink and give it a shake, really) and pat the surface dry with paper towels or napkins – something that you can toss away when you’re done.

Put the now-dry chicken breast-side up into a dry cast iron frying pan - mine is a 10 ¾” and fits most broiler/fryers perfectly. No chicken-roasting gizmos needed!

Pull up the skin flaps around the cavity, and pull/cut off and discard any excessivly large globules of fat. Wash your hands thoroughly in hot soapy water.

Spritz the top surface of the chicken with canola oil, or rub lightly with oil (and wash your chickeny hands again). Sprinkle coarse salt liberally over the chicken breasts and legs. If you want to add another herb or spice – paprika gives it a lovely colour – do that now. Place the pan in the hot oven.

Do not cover the chicken (lid or tinfoil or anything).
Do not baste the chicken with anything
Do not change the oven temperature

A 3 lb. chicken cooks in about 1 to 1.25 hours. During this time, you can relax. Do the laundry or other chores if you want, otherwise laze about in your favourite fashion. Test the chicken for done-ness (an instant read thermometer registering 185 F when thrust into the thickest part of the thigh meat is good, or a knife into the area between the leg and the body – if the juices run clear, you’re good to go). Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken to a plate or carving board. Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting, or you will lose most of the juices. Slice/carve/destroy the chicken as suits you best. Devour.

Nifty extras: A large russet potato bakes in about the same amount of time as the chicken. Wash the potato thoroughly, and jab it with a fork a couple of times. Place on the oven rack next to the frying pan full of chicken and ignore until the chicken is ready. The potato will be, too.

Roast garlic is delicious – even more so when it is roasted in chicken fat! Peel a handful of cloves (or heck, do the whole head!) and throw them into the pan with the chicken about ½ hour before you expect the chicken to be done. Give them a little stir so they’re coated with the chicken fat. When the chicken is ready, the garlic cloves will be sweetly caramelized and delicious.

If I am going to have leftover roast chicken, I like to remove the meat from the bones right after dinner, while it is still warm and freshly cooked (use your bare hands!); it is much more hassle if you wait to do this after the chicken has been refrigerated. I plate the boneless meat, cover it with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for the next day. The bones go into a bag and into the freezer, to deal with when I feel like making stock.

There you go. Not glamourous, not fancy, not even really a recipe – more of a method. But it’s a low maintenance dinner (you can always make a salad or steam some broccoli in the last few minutes of cooking) that I’m happy to have, and which gives me great leftovers and stock-fixings.

That’s a reasonable amount of mileage to get out of one little chicken, I think.


Just Me said...

Sounds yummy. Our latest craze is deep fried turkey (though I think you could probably do a chicken too)...have you ever tried that?

Dawna said...

Hi Just Me!

I've heard about deep fried turkey, but I've never tried it.

I have a minor fear of deep frying that I'm trying to overcome, and the scary stories that I hear about deep fried turkey disasters (every year at Thanksgiving, there seem to be a few, although I don't know if they are urban legends or not!) make me very nervous about trying it myself.

I would imagine you'd have to do it outdoors, for safety reasons? It must take a pretty large frying kettle to fit a turkey into!

Dawna said...

Note regarding the 185 F temperature: This is the guideline from Health Canada, but usually by the time the thigh is that hot, the breast is desperately dried out. I usually cook mine to a thigh temp of approximately 170 - 175 F and I haven't gotten ill yet, but use your own judgement.