Recently in Poultry and Game
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

roast chicken

classic roast chicken

There are plenty of stories that I could share with you about roast chicken. My memories of eating it as a child, as an adult, and in-between – are plentiful. But that’s really neither here nor there, and would be distracting to the missive – you need to make this. Soon. As soon as possible, in fact. And I want to tell you that there is a way to get your roast chicken perfect every time. In fact, this chicken sort of just cooks on its own with very little hands-on work. You know, I am having a hard time writing this post. I think what I want to say to you is this.

There is nothing more perfect than a perfectly roasted chicken.

classic roast chicken

Nothing more sublime. Nothing more attainable, accessible, every-day-comforting and yet luxurious and decadent. It’s the alpha and the omega of meals. It’s a meal fit for a regular-weeknight supper or a festive, celebratory feast. It’s like that amazingly, fabulous pair of jeans hanging in your closet. An every day must-have, that’s also great for a fabulous night on the town. And just as a pair of jeans is an essential wardrobe staple, roast chicken is its kitchen equivalent. It’s a classic everyone should master. And it is easier to make than you think.

classic roast chicken

I have, in my lifetime, attempted my hand at roast chicken with as much success as failure. I finally figured out a few things that, I think, make a nearly fool-proof system of getting your chicken just perfect every time. Besides this method, what it takes is just a few times’ making it. Getting a feel for the bird, for the roasting process, getting some courage in calling it when it’s done. Courage is huge here. I mentioned once that pie crust smells fear. I think it’s kind of true for cooking food in general. Or attempting something new. That something will intrinsically know your fear, so I suggest just charging on. What’s the worst think that can happen? You will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner – and is that such a bad thing?

classic roast chickenmaking gravy

Here are some of my thoughts on roasting a chicken.

First off, you want your chicken to be on the smaller side. You want that magic perfect proportion of skin to meat, i.e. fat to leaner meat. More fat equals tastier chicken. Also, more moist chicken, since this fat will guard your chicken from drying up. Larger chickens are, well, larger, and so somehow that fat distribution doesn’t quite work. So aim for a chicken between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 pounds.

Secondly, it would help you a great deal if you prepped the chicken one to two days in advance. This means, salting it, putting appropriate herbs and whatnot, and letting it sit in the fridge, covered, absorbing this lovely salt. It’s really worth it.

Third, high temperature, is your friend. In fact, it is your right hand man when it comes to roasting a chicken. Don’t fear it, thinking that it’ll render your chicken dry. It won’t. I promise. In fact, you’ll be amazed what blasting your chicken with such high temperatures will do for the bird. It will melt in your mouth. It will not taste like pressed wood composite.

classic roast chicken - resting

Fourth, you want to make sure that before you place the chicken in the oven you want to make sure it is as dry as possible. Dry chicken means it will get crispy and sizzle. Wet chicken means, it’ll steam and steamed chicken isn’t nearly as exciting-sounding or tasting as roasted chicken. Don’t you think?

Finally, and just as importantly, once your chicken is done, you want to let it rest. Give it about 15 minutes so that it absorbs the juices and hangs out for a bit. Besides, after pulling it out of the oven, you’ll be compelled to pull up a chair and admire it – it will be terribly pretty to look at (and even better to eat, when you get around to it)!

classic roast chicken

But don’t admire it too long – you’ll have hungry guests and a meal is best admired when it is consumed and savored.

Continue reading roast chicken.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

apricot glazed sriracha ginger chicken

apricot-glazed sriracha chicken

I was going to write about roast chicken. I had it all planned and figured out. I was going to tell you of a glorious weekend on the North Fork, and wine tasting, and meeting Claudia Fleming (swoon). But all this must wait. Because I have to tell you about the chicken I made Monday night for our monthly book club. We ate it up and licked our fingers. Well, I licked my fingers, and I think the other ladies in the book club were better behaved.

It’s not often that I find a recipe I like so much that I am thinking about it non-stop and so much so that I would be willing to serve it to my guests again. I’m quite fanatical about not repeating dishes as I try to always cook something new and different and thus maybe have something new to write about, but in this case, really, this will be made over and over and over again.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

Particularly for dinner parties and more particularly for those dinner parties hosted on a weeknight, when I have roughly an hour and a half to pull dinner together. Because what comes out of your oven is, well, nothing short of stunning. I would even dare say, celestial. I know, I use superlative language here, but if you know me, and I think by now you do, I’m not prone to descriptions that don’t live up to expectation. I’m all about meeting those expectations, folks.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

And they will be met. Because a slurry of garlic, ginger, apricot jam, soy sauce and the recently written about Sriracha – does something to the chicken that makes it somewhat irresistible. You know it the second you take it out of the oven and smell it that you will be licking your fingers. And the plate, and whatever is left of the sauce. And when your guests go to get seconds and praise your cooking prowess, you might be tempted to tell you that the whole thing took mere minutes to put together. But you won’t. Because you’ll be too busy licking the sauce off your fingers to talk.

Continue reading apricot glazed sriracha ginger chicken.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

coq au vin in white wine

coq au vin

I think it’s safe to say that winter is on its way. I could not bundle myself warmly enough today – and it came so suddenly on Sunday. What with Saturday night so warm, Sunday greeted us with gusts of wind, dropping temperatures, scarves and sweaters. And warm stew-like food.

I’ve been in a chicken mood lately. Not just any chicken. Chicken that is soft, succulent, falling off the bone chicken. Chicken that doesn’t need to be cut with a knife. Chicken that is so warm, comforting, moist and fragrant, you will be actually excited about the cold weather outside. Hard to believe?

I know I’ve been telling you about how easy various recipes are, and pretty soon I’m going to lose my credibility with you. Maybe? Maybe not. Because this is yet another one of these dishes that practically cooks itself. I know I said that about the last chicken dish, but I swear this is another one just like it, if not easier.

ooh the garlicky broth!

I’ll confess I’m not a big fan of white meat – I find it too dry, even if it’s not overcooked. The meat is just a bit too tough for me. With the dark meat, you come out looking like a chef extraordinaire while the work you put in is quite minimal.

Continue reading coq au vin in white wine.

Friday, November 7, 2008

roast chicken with pears, shallots and leeks

Chicken with Pears and Leeks

If you’re lucky enough to find a handful of dishes that sort of cook themselves you’ve got a pretty good repertoire that you can always fall back on in case you’re not exactly prepared to make dinner for a friend whom you had invited over eons ago and just delayed figuring out a game plan. Not that this ever happens to me. Yeah, right.

As much as I am a born planner and a pretty much a control-freak in most aspects of my life, even I slide at times and kind of let laziness take over. I procrastinate, I watch mindless television, I wonder where did the time go? No, really? Are The Hills that worth my time? Apparently they are – how else would you explain this weekly mind-numbing ritual?

Chicken with Pears and Leeks

Well, here’s a meal for you that does indeed practically cook itself. It’s so unbelievably easy you’ll be tempted to keep this secret to yourself and not let others in on it. After you feed them this chicken, they will beg you for the recipe, they’ll have seconds and thirds and they’ll think that you slaved all evening over the stove.

Nothing can be further from the truth. This is a one baking dish meal and it takes minutes to put together and once you stick it in the oven, you only have to check on it once to turn the pieces over and then – voila! It will be done and delicious. Which, of course, means you have more time for The Hills, or something more intellectual perhaps? Gossip Girl, anyone?

Continue reading roast chicken with pears, shallots and leeks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

chicken piccata

chicken piccata

There comes a point at every Passover when I begin to grow tired of the traditional dishes, the gefilte fish starts looking revolting, and no matter which way you slice it, all I really want is a bagel, or a bowl of pasta, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; simple and gratifying,. They are all humble foods, honest and filling, and I miss them terribly. The eight days begin to seem interminable. What can I say – I like my leavened starches!

But truth be told, I doubt I would miss any of those things, if I could take the entire week off and just focus on Passover cooking, if I didn’t have to balance it with a 12-hour workday. I could get creative and just spend my days creating holiday appropriate dishes. I have always wanted to host a Mediterranean seder, serving some Italian and Greek-inspired dishes. Maybe a roasted rack of lamb, or a branzini.

chicken piccata

Oh, but there’s also my version of chicken piccata. I’ve deviated a bit from the traditional way of making it in that I roast my chicken with all the ingredients. Perhaps that’s an insult to the traditional method of preparation, but I like my way better. Sautéed chicken always leaves me a bit lackluster, but roast chicken – now that’s a whole different story altogether.

I also find that on a night when you come home from work, tired and hungry and with a laundry-list of to-do items around the apartment, this version is fantastically easy to put together and not worry about until it’s time to pull the chicken out. With the exception of a singular trip to the oven to turn the chicken breasts over, you are free to buzz about your home, tidying up, paying bills, folding laundry, or simply kicking back on the couch with a glass of wine, watching Seinfeld reruns. The latter happens to be my preference, but somehow errands get in the way.

parsley

By omitting butter from the recipe here, you magically transform this every-day dish into kosher-for-Passover dish. I should do a bit more research, but I believe capers are permitted to use during the holiday. Everything else in the recipe, lemon, wine, garlic, olive oil, salt, are permitted for Passover use.

So there you have it, an easy-peasy Passover recipe that isn’t gefilte fish. How fabulous is that? And I dare say that most of these ingredients should already be in your pantry, save perhaps the capers, but those are easy enough to locate. And maybe adding another dish into your Passover repertoire will make the week go by a bit faster. And before you know it, you’ll be enjoying that bagel or that bowl of pasta all over again!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

chicken liver and onions

Among many things we quickly discovered about America when we first arrived is that you could buy chicken liver by the pound in plastic containers. In addition to its abundance, it was also shockingly cheap, which worked to our advantage because we were just as shockingly poor. In Russia, the only time you could get your hands on chicken livers would be by buying a chicken, which came with all of its entrails and a few feathers here and there, that you’d be responsible in plucking. This rarity, of course, made it sheer delicacy and would be preserved only for the children’s consumption. They would be the ones with the highest nutritional need, and chicken livers are a great source of iron and hemoglobin.

For me, however, chicken livers meant gagging and disgust – it was one of my most abhorred foods. My mother would fry up some onions, dust the chicken livers in flour and salt and fry that up as well. The resulting dish was then placed before me and my mother, standing akimbo in the kitchen over me, would oversee the torturous and seemingly interminable feeding process. I would, of course, eat the onions and then poke around at the liver. The meal would always end in tears, with my mother finally losing her patience and snapping; and me, scared and nauseous, wailing over my plate.

raw livers

I don’t mean to paint my mother a monster – she certainly was trying her best to make sure I had as much good, wholesome food as possible; and has taught me how to make some of my favorite dishes. I think that I was a very picky eater in my childhood and could pretty much drive the most patient of people crazy. Chicken liver, back then, was my arch-nemesis.

not the most appetizing shot, i know

I don’t know when my palate changed and learned to love chicken livers, but it does now. And I was excited to find out when KS and I started dating, that I found another chicken liver fan as well. I showed him how we made it in my family and he turned around and made the preparation even better. His secret, while the chicken livers are cooking, to periodically add a tiny bit of the flour mixture to places that have become “un-coated” with it. The result, a crispy outside, delicately textured, almost buttery taste. Nothing goes better with it than a plate of freshly fried onions, a tiny dash of good balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.

Continue reading chicken liver and onions.