Roast Chicken

In my last cooking class with Nikki we made roast Cornish hens, which, in addition to being very tasty, got me over my fear of cooking a whole bird.  They are tiny and relatively unintimidating and made me realize that prepping and cooking a whole bird is not all that  different from cooking bird pieces (except the whole bag of innards, ew).  So, I decided to try this on my own with a larger bird, meant for two as opposed to just one.  I got a small chicken at my local grocery store and went to work.

I took the advice of Zuni and seasoned the trimmed chicken with salt and pepper, inserted some thyme leaves and a little butter under the skin, then covered it with tin foil and popped it in the fridge to season while I prepared the other parts of my dish.

Then I got to work on the apples and shallots I was going to cook with the chicken.  I sliced them in to wedges and added them to a tupperware with a little bit of melted butter and minced thyme leaves.

I shook them up until they were well coated then let them sit to soak in as much as possible.


After preheating the roasting pan over medium heat (on the stove), I added the chicken and popped it it in the oven.  Once it was a little over half-cooked, I should have add the onions and shallots (I added them too early – at the beginning – and not only did they stick to the pan, but they were mostly charred… fortunately their sweet flavor added to the flavor of the chicken and I was able to salvage a few tasty pieces).  Once the bird was done (the internal temperature should register 165 degrees), I removed it from the oven. {P.S. – I didn’t have twine to tie up the bird and, though it’s not as pretty as it probably would have been, it didn’t seem to a negative effect.}

If they had been less singed/stuck to the pot, I would have removed the chicken, apples, and shallots and set them aside.  Then I would have made a sauce with the drippings by tilting the pan, skimming off the fat, and swirling the remaining juices in the pan until the sauce was reduced (and intensified!) a bit.

You can serve this tasty chicken with any sides you like – I have a pea obsession, so that’s what we had!

Chambers thinks it looks pretty tasty…

Roast Chicken with Apples and Shallots
Adapted from Zuni’s Roast Chicken recipe

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds
7 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon butter
Salt
About 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 medium-sized apples (I used Gala)
3 shallots

Procedure

1. Seasoning the chicken (you can do this up to 1 to 3 days before serving): Make sure the chicken is very dry inside and out. Be thorough–a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

2. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig and a tiny dab of butter into each of the 4 pockets.

3. Smear the rest of the butter over the top of the chicken.  This part can be omitted, but your bird won’t brown as nicely as mine did.  Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

4. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Depending on the size, efficiency, and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or as low as 450 degrees during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

6. Place in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoiking, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking.) and add the apples and shallots.  Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

7. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken, shallots, and apples from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. Set the chicken, apples, and shallots in a warm spot (which may be your stovetop), and leave to rest. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools. Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste–the juices will be extremely flavorful.

8. Cut the chicken into pieces and pour the pan drippings over the chicken.

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