Quest for the Wholly Chicken (Roasted)

I have this problem roasting chicken:  I have been following recipes that seem to be written by people who don’t like chicken.  I also don’t pay attention as much as I should, but even when I have paid attention the roasted chicken I have made hasn’t been all that great.  I believe I fixed that last night.

I received Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook as a gift — which is just as fun to read as it is to cook with.  As usual for this sort of thing, the recipes have ingredients that I don’t tend to keep around.  This recipe is going to change one item though:  white wine.  As for the other things, I made substitutions that were sufficient enough for the result to be wonderful.  The chicken was flavorful, juicy, and delicious; it represented exactly what I have been trying to do.  It required a little tending, but for the result I got, it was worth it.

  • 4lb whole chicken
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1T rosemary
  • 1T thyme
  • 2t lemon juice
  • 1 “medium” sweet onion — halved, in “the easiest way, in your opinion”
  • 1T bacon fat (the recipe called for the giblets, but this was what I decided to use in their absence)
  • 1/2c white wine — This is wine I didn’t mind drinking.  I finally learned that if I wouldn’t otherwise drink “it” (wine, whisky, vermouth, etc.), then there was no point cooking with it.
  • 1/4c olive oil

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.  Rub all over with salt and pepper.  This is very important.  I was not shy and rubbed it all over.

Splash lemon juice into body cavity.  View this like an adhesive for the thyme and rosemary.  Ideally, the spices should be somewhat spread around, not settled into a heap.  Add half the onion and then truss the legs together.

Rub the bacon fat on the bottom of a roasting pan (the inside, dude… the inside…). I used a cast iron dutch oven for this because it is better for me than any roasting pan I’ve used (it also makes a fair helmet in an emergency…).  Slice the remaining half of onion into 4 pieces and lay flat in bottom of pan.  I’m a “tuck the wings behind the bird” cook, so I did that before I put it in the pan — on top of the onion slices.[[3]]  Pour in the wine, being careful not to rinse off the salt and pepper rub.  Drizzle olive oil over bird. [[1]]

Cook for 30 minutes at 375F, basting every 10 minutes.  Now it’s okay to have some of that rub rinse off, you won’t be able to baste otherwise.  I cooked it in 10 minute increments to ensure the bird spent all 30 minutes in the oven.  Crank the oven to 450F and cook for 25 minutes, covered and left alone.  Remove from oven, leave covered for 15 minutes to rest.  This 40 minutes of being unobserved is the moment of Quantum Cooking.  Maybe the chicken comes out alright, maybe it’s a mess — but that lid can’t be opened until the full 40 minutes is up.

Remove bird from pan, remove onion — and giblets if you happened to have and use those.  Put pan on low heat and scrape around in there (wooden spoon!!!) to loosen up all the flavorful bits.  The original recipe called for another 1/2c of wine, but I used 3/4c of water with about 2T of cornstarch to thicken.  I’m not very good at gravy, so cornstarch is my escape plan.  A roux could be used, but I’m not that good with that either.

And that was it.  I had a nice juicy bird with some outstanding gravy (duh… it had bacon fat in it!!).

Keeping bacon fat is a leftover (har har) from my childhood.  My parents and grandparents always had a container of drippings.  It was what was used before “cooking sprays”.  Sometimes butter was used, but bacon fat is heavier and won’t cook off as quickly as butter will.  Also, depending on the bacon you use, there is phenomenal flavor in bacon fat that is a shame to feed to your Omnivorous Trashcan or worse, The Gurgling Drain of Death.  [[2]]

[[1]] Do yourself a big favor and get an olive oil cruet to your adventuring gear.  Avoid kitchy, decorative crap.  Get one that you can easily tell (a) you will be able to fill without gymnastics, application of quantum physics, or anti-gravity, and (b) that you can actually hold on to if it gets slippery.  It contains oil — it’s going to get slippery at some point.

[[2]] … never put heavy oily sludge down your drain!!! It will seriously mess up septic tanks, and fouls up waste processing in municipal water.  “Other people do it”, but Heroic Cooking Adventurers are better than “other” people.  Besides, every adventurer knows you never throw something away — the DM has provided it for a reason not yet obvious to you (or overlooked that they just handed you an unplanned solution to an Epic Problem).

[[3]] 2011-12-28 — I’ve learned after a few adventures that putting the onion in the pan such that the bird can rest on it is a good thing.  This requires the onion to be cut into 4 slices, roughly the same thickness.  My observation is that the meat absorbs more good flavor from the onion this way and the onion breaks down more and contributes to the juices for gravy.


One thought on “Quest for the Wholly Chicken (Roasted)

  1. Anthony B is big on the “everything but the oink” kind of cooking, so he’s gonna call for things like giblets. For some totally annoying reason, whole fowl of almost all variety come with their various bits included _EXCEPT_ chickens. Turkeys, ducks, quail, you name it, they come with all the bits removed, but tucked inside (classic Thanksgiving disaster story is the guy who didn’t take the plastic bag of bits out of the bird before roasting it for six hours), but whole chickens don’t. Not only is this kind of wasteful on the butcher’s part, but it deprives you of a lot of great flavor. Bacon fat was probably a good call, but probably also produced a completely different end result.

    Good call on the Dutch oven. Roasting pans are for sledding.

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