Friday, October 3, 2008

A Chicken In Every Pot: How To Roast A Chicken

One of the first things my parents taught me to do in the kitchen was roast a chicken. One of the first things I learned that everyone did a little differently from her neighbor is roast a chicken. It was a revelation, figuring out that not everyone took a little metal-handled brush and brushed vegetable oil over the skin, sprinkled it all over with seasoned salt, and roasted the bird in a 9x13 pan in a 350° oven. And now I find my sister doesn't even do it that way (she uses Pam instead of veggie oil). It seems entirely appropriate, then, that Depression Era Recipes has two roast chicken recipes back to back.
How to Roast a Chicken

Remove any bits from inside dressed bird. Singe and remove pinfeathers. Wash under faucet. Dry inside and out. Stuff with a light hand with dressing of your choice. Turn wings across back, sew through wings and body with poultry needle and fine twine. Tie firmly, leaving long ends. Press thighs close to body and sew through; wrap twine around lower part of body and tie. Sew through ends of legs and tie close together. Sew once or twice through body opening if ragged. Rub with soft butter. season well with salt and pepper. Mix about 1/2 c. butter and 1/2 c. water in a pan and keep hot for basting. Put bird on a rack in a roasting pan. Sear in a hot oven till browned, then reduce heat to moderate and bake until done, basting often. Make gravy from pan drippings.
Golly, that sounds far too involved for a simple roast chicken. It's like a sewing lesson before dinner. I think this is a good time to say that I'm glad that I live in a time when I don't need to singe and remove pinfeathers off my chicken before I can prepare it. Let's see if the next one is any less... fussy.
How to Roast a Chicken Easier

Wash bird and cut into quarters, or leave whole. Put it in a roasting pan or skillet. Add 1/2 c. water. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Plain and simple and it turns out pretty good, too.
Well, that's certainly easier. It says so right in the title! But there's no seasoning going on, I think the addition of butter or oil, salt, and pepper at a minimum will make this less ... like a college student trying to impress someone by cooking a chicken without bothering to take out the giblets or the like.

My standard roast chicken these days goes along these lines: Smash several cloves of garlic and zest a lemon. Smear together with half a stick of butter, and then massage the garlic lemon butter under the skin of your bird. Cut the zested lemons in half and shove them in the de-giblet-ed cavity, along with the rest of the head of garlic. Put in a 9x13 pan (untrussed!), in a 375°F oven, and cook until internal temperature is 160°F.

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