Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another roast chicken variation

A nice thing about roasting a chicken is that, although it does heat up the kitchen, you don't actually have to be in there with it most of the time. I think I've mentioned before that my kitchen door has a rubber gasket around the edges that can seal the heat in without it contaminating my air conditioning. I get a headache if I go back and forth too often, but for roasting, that's generally not necessary.

Last roast chicken I made, I used the Zuni Café recipe. I did it by the book that time; This time I wanted to tweak the recipe in a few different ways to see how it would hold up.

My first change was to replace the basic salt and pepper dry marinade with a fancier spice mix. I used more to compensate for the low salt percentage in the hot Cajun spice mix I picked, but not enough. I had to salt the chicken again at serving. Surprisingly, that seemed to be just as good. Usually, post-cooking salting of meat doesn't work as well; Maybe this method primes the meat to take up flavorings? I have an idea of how that might work, but I don't actually know what I'm talking about so I'll spare you the details.

Post-refrigerator-rest, the original recipe calls for heating a skillet on the stovetop, dropping the chicken into it and then putting it into a preheated oven. Instead, I heated a cast iron skillet in the pre-heating oven. When the oven was up to 475 degrees, I took out the pan, added potatoes that I had cut into pieces about an inch across and a handful of garlic cloves, still in the peel, both of which I had rolled in salt, sprigs of fresh thyme and olive oil. The chicken went on top of that. The goal here was not just to roast some potatoes, but to elevate the chicken out of its juices. Last time I ended up with one side with crisp skin and one side that was tasty but soggy. Maybe this will help.

Oh, and I stuffed half a lemon and a few stems of parsley into the chicken's cavity. That's pretty standard and I was surprised the original recipe didn't do it. On the other hand, I couldn't detect either flavor in the final chicken so I dunno.

Then I roasted as per the original recipe: 30 minutes breast side up, flipped for 10-20 more and then flipped back for 5-10 for crisping. This was a 3 3/4 pound chicken so my times were on the upper end of those ranges.

Once the chicken was done, I removed it to a cutting board, pulled out the potatoes and, instead of just cooking down the drippings into a sauce the chicken didn't really need, I added a couple handfuls of spinach to the pan to wilt. It's always nice when you can get all the elements of a dinner out of one pan.

On the whole, pretty good, but no particular improvement over the Zuni original. Actually, I think the potato roasting rack idea backfired and ended up steaming the skin on the bottom of the chicken to flabbiness instead of letting it crisp. The potatoes themselves are nicely chewy on the outside, soft inside and nicely flavored by the drippings, but that flavor was taken away from the pan so the spinach didn't gain from it. Next time, I'll roast the potatoes in a separate pan alongside the chicken. Ah well, worth a try.

One more thing before I go. Since the chicken wasn't heavily spiced, but was nicely succulent, I was able to use the leftovers in a classic Chinatown chicken on rice. If you've had this dish, you know that it's a whole lot of white rice, sliced plain boiled chicken served at room temperature, maybe a little leafy green vegetable and an amazing sauce that elevates it to equal the roast pork and roast duck its served alongside. I did a bit of research and discovered that the sauce is amazingly simple, just chopped scallions, grated ginger and salt poached in a neutral oil to infuse the flavor plus a drizzle of good soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. I didn't get a good picture so you'll just have to imagine it, but it was better than the original dinner and really easy if you've got the chicken and some extra spinach or somesuch about.


kat said...

We spatchcock the chicken before roasting it, that way the skin is all facing up & gets crispy plus the dark meat seems to stay juicier

billjac said...

Yeah, that was my method too before I started dabbling with the Zuni recipe. I was pretty happy with the ATK/Good Eats hybrid method I had; I think the next variation is trying using the Zuni 3-day salting and lack of extra fat with the spatchcock.

Louie said...

soo delicious! this chiecken looks tastier then in Wingeria cooking game, love the recipe thank you!