This morning’s blog find, via Serious Eats, is The Paupered Chef — I first really learned to cook when I was living in New York, working as an editorial assistant on a bunch of cookbook projects and, because I was an editorial assistant without rich parents in the suburbs to pay my rent, I was absolutely flat broke.
I couldn’t go out much because of my terror of a split check at a table full of 1980s Wall Street types, a split check which would mean I couldn’t pay my rent. But I did live three blocks from the Union Square Greenmarket and I had access to a nearly bottomless cookbook library, and so, I learned to cook. A girl has to buy food, right? A girl needs some form of entertainment … and so it was with a big hit of nostalgia that I cruised over to check out the Paupered Chef.They’ve got an entry on their ongoing quest to find the perfect roast chicken. I’ve written before about roasting a chicken, and how a roasted chicken, because it is easy, and because it makes your whole house smell good, can save you from the brink of despair. I have a deep and unwavering faith in the power of roast chicken, and so, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about.
What’s so hard about roasting a chicken? What’s all this fuss about the “perfect” chicken? Decide what you like — I like crispy skin and dark meat. I don’t really care so much about the breasts — while I don’t go as far as Mario and feed them to the dogs, I do tend to make chicken salad or sandwiches or quesadillas or something out of them later. Roasting a chicken is just about the easiest thing I know how to cook aside from Pot Roast.
Here’s my roast chicken — don’t know if it’s “perfect” but it works for me.
Preheat the oven to 425 (for me, 350 is too cool and you don’t get crispy skin, 450 is too hot and the breast does dry out. I’m also at altitude though, so experiment a little — see what works for you). Take one frying chicken, preferably organic (because they taste so much better you won’t believe it and their bones aren’t all soft and weird and you can use them for stock later). Pull whatever lurks in the cavity out of the cavity. Rinse the bird and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the bird inside and out. Cut one lemon and one onion in half. Smash a bunch of cloves of garlic (I like 4-6). Stuff the lemon, onion and garlic in the cavity and use a skewer to secure the flaps of skin across the cavity (this yeilds two delicious crispy bits of skin that belong, rightfully to the cook, and which are to be eaten while waiting for the bird to rest.) Line the bottom of a cheap baking pan with foil, put the rack inside, and place the chicken breast side down on the rack (you can also use a shallow gratin dish — just use something with sides on it to catch the juice). Put the bird in the oven for 30 minutes. Take the bird out at 30 minutes and flip it onto it’s back (I use two paper towels folded into thick rectangles as “hot pads” for this part.) Then cook for another hour or until, as the phrase goes, “the juices run clear” from the thigh joint. Like I said, what I like about a roast chicken is crispy skin, crispy wings, and the dark meat, so it’s not such a big deal to me if the breasts aren’t “juicy” — although I have to say, I’ve rarely had the breasts be dry or weird. I think the first 30 minutes breast side down help prevent this (although I do it for the crispy skin). Let the bird rest for 5 or 10 minutes before carving. If you like gravy, tip the bird up, dump the juices and the lemon-onion-garlic out into a pan, smash the lemon a little to get the juice and discard the lemon and the onion. Reduce the pan juices, perhaps add a little pat of butter in the spirit of Julia Child and to make the sauce nice and shiny, and there you have it. Chicken and gravy.
So, that’s my chicken, and I’m sticking to it. It’s worked so far. Hmm. Maybe roast chicken tonight amidst the plaster dust ….