Monday, April 7, 2008

High Roast Chicken Pt. I

So I'm pretty excited about this recipe... I haven't made it in a while and it always comes out great... in fact, I was so excited that even a Whole Foods organic chicken didn't seem good enough for it, and I wanted to see what Savenor's had to offer. This is a place that sells wild boar bacon, ground venison, and bear meat to name a few of their more exotic products... but they are also the finest, friendliest, and most knowledgeable butchers that I've come across in the area (also the priciest, alas). Their selection did not disappoint, as they had fancy French Canadian chickens that have been written up in the New York Times. Despite the fact that the pricing was frankly outrageous ($3.39 a pound!?) I decided to give it a go because I was really curious about this whole "air chilled" deal... gimmick or not? I can't say yet, obviously, but typically after a chicken is slaughtered and eviscerated it is chilled to prevent bacteria growth in a giant vat of chlorinated water. This process leads to the chicken absorbing water (how much is shown on labels now) that is just going to cook out of it (unlike brining where it is the salt, not the water that is doing the work). A Gianonne chicken on the other hand, in addition to being hormone and antibiotic free along with being fed a nice vegetarian diet and all that... is "air chilled" so that their is no water weight gain and the chicken's juices are not diluted... reportedly leading to a far tastier chicken. We shall see.

Obviously you don't need a $12 chicken to make this recipe, but what you do need is a broiler pan(very important - though perhaps you could get away with a rack and a roasting pan), and:

Brine
  • 3.5-4lb chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, and giblets/neck removed for something else
  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Mustard-Garlic Compound Butter
  • 2 tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or garlic pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Potatoes
  • 2.5 pounds of russet potatoes (4 or 5 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Now, I always do the brine a day ahead of time because I like to let the chicken air dry in the refrigerator overnight for extra-extra crispy skin, but you can skip that step and do this all in one evening (just make sure to dry the skin thoroughly with paper towels). You can prep the potatoes while the chicken is brining, so it's pretty efficient, though we are still probably talking 2 hours from start to finish.
  1. Dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 quarts of cold water in a large pot.
  2. Put the chicken in, breast side down, and cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the compound butter ingredients together in a small bowl, which should look like so:
  4. Once the chicken is fully seasoned, rinse it thoroughly (the sugar from the brine will caramelize and burn in the oven, so you want that all washed off) and bring it to your cutting board, breast side down.
  5. With a good pair of kitchen shears cut out the backbone to produce this*:
  6. With the heel of your hand press down on the breast bone until it breaks and lies flat on the cutting board.
  7. Slip your fingers between the skin and both breasts, loosing the skin as deep in as you can get. Repeat on the thighs and legs.
  8. Take a spoonful of the compound butter, slide it under the breast skin, and push it off with your fingers.
  9. Work the butter under the skin with your fingers to try to distribute it evenly. Repeat with the other breast and both thighs and legs.
  10. Transfer to a broiler pan, fold the wings back under themselves, push the legs together and tie with kitchen twine(optional) to leave you with:
  11. Put the broiler pan with chicken into the refrigerator to air dry for 8 to 24 hours.
To be continued... on to Part II.


*If you need more direction than what I was able to document, go to the America's Test Kitchen video; the chicken prepping starts about 3 minutes in.