Thursday, May 5, 2011

Roast chicken

I'm pretty sure that by this point, every food blogger and her cousin has posted a recipe for roasting a whole chicken. The roast chicken is iconic. It has at least one cookbook named after it. It sparked a prolonged online debate between two food-writing giants.

I come not to diss the roast chicken: I love it too. But (dare I say it? Please don’t shun me, Mr. Ruhlman) it is not always practical for a weeknight dinner at my house. It takes a fair bit of time to cook; even a small one is a lot of meat for two adults and a child (especially when only one of us likes dark meat); and, at least around here, it creates expectations. Gravy. Mashed potatoes. Biscuits?

However, I do not consider the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken breast an adequate substitute. It doesn’t even taste the same and you certainly can’t roast it in the oven as-is—not unless you’re fond of snacking on sawdust, that is. There are various ways you can prepare it that are delicious (including my favorite), but it’s not roast chicken.

Luckily I have Cook’s Illustrated to help me with these dilemmas, providing a recipe that uses bone-in, skin-on breasts and gives you many of the benefits of roast chicken (crispy skin, juicy meat, a manageable amount of leftovers, even a few bones for the stockpot, and did I mention crispy skin?) without the longer cooking time or the demand for all the trimmings.

Roast chicken breasts
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Although I know that I read about this method in Cook’s Illustrated, I now can’t find where I originally discovered it. So this is my (possibly wildly inaccurate to the original, although effective) approximation from memory of their recipe. I feel confident that the same method could be applied successfully to thighs.

1 Tbsp/15 g butter
1 Tbsp/15 g olive oil
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
salt & pepper
¼ cup/60 ml white wine
1 cup/240 ml chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Place an ovenproof skillet on the stove over medium heat; add butter and oil. While this is heating up, season the chicken with salt & pepper.

When butter and oil have begun to sizzle, add chicken breasts, skin side down. Cook without moving for about 5 minutes, allowing the skin to begin to brown and crisp. Then turn the chicken over so that it is bone-side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Pour the wine into the pan and swirl around to make sure it coats the entire bottom, lifting the chicken breast briefly to get the liquid underneath. Allow wine to come to a bubble (this should only take a minute or two), and then add stock.

Carefully place skillet in oven and allow chicken breasts to cook, skin side up. Roast until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160F/71C degrees, 20-35 minutes.

Remove chicken from skillet to cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Return skillet to stovetop, over high heat, and stir liquid in skillet to combine. Bring liquid to a boil and allow to reduce by half, 5-7 minutes. Add in any liquid that has leaked out of resting chicken, and taste for seasoning.

Carve chicken, top with pan sauce, and serve immediately with the kind of vegetables you make on weeknights.

Leftovers are great in sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, omelets….

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