There’s nothing like a roast chicken. It’s comfort food, it’s elegant, it’s hearty but not heavy, and it provides far beyond one meal — soup, salad, sandwich … it’s really darn perfect.
So, far be it from me to mess with perfection. But you may recall my New Year’s food resolution to mix it up, tweak ingredients, alter techniques and experiment. So I played with my food in the form of this chicken.
I started with a 24-hour brine, then roasted the chicken in a large, covered pan with some water. The results were pretty darn spectacular: The meat was juicy, flavorful and cooked in about 30% less time than expected.
The only down side was that the skin did not turn a brown color with a crispy texture. Now that doesn’t bother me because I don’t eat the skin, but if that is a deal breaker, simply remove the cover for the last 15 minutes or so of the cooking to brown up the bird.
This was such a hit in my house that I’ve made it twice in the last 10 days. And the subsequent chicken salad and soup fed us for a couple days after, so that was a lot of “bang for the buck.” The first menu consisted of the chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and roasted cabbage. The second menu comprised the chicken (no gravy), roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, and a green salad with mustard vinaigrette.
I chose a large roaster for this — 8-9 pounds in anticipation of useful leftovers, which did not disappoint. Normally, a chicken that size would need about 3 hours in the oven, figuring 20 minutes per pound, but these big birds were done in 2 hours!
The drippings that result in the pan made a gorgeous gravy, recipe below, but if you are not inclined, skip it and use the drippings for a killer chicken soup tomorrow. And if you do make the gravy, save the leftovers and throw it in the soup anyway.
Serves 4 for dinner, with leftovers
I call this “br-oasted” because it is the midpoint between a braise and a roast. The water in the bottom of the pan works magic in keeping the meat from drying out and making it super-tender, like a braise, but the chicken holds its form. It almost falls apart but not quite.
For the chicken:
1 large roaster (about 8 pounds)
For the brine:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each black pepper, garlic powder, thyme and rosemary
Place the spices and a bit of cold water in a large bowl or pot to dissolve. Rinse the chicken, and place it in a pot with the spice mixture, then cover it with water. Refrigerate it for 24 hours. Drain the chicken, and rinse it well.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken in a large roasting pan with a cover — there should be plenty of room around and above the chicken; air circulation and steaming are key for the juicy, flavorful meat. Put about 1 cup of water in the bottom of the pan, cover it and place it in the oven.
Cook the chicken for approximately 15 minutes per pound, and check for doneness (internal temperature of 165-170 degrees). When done, let the chicken rest, covered in a pan, for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour before serving.
For the gravy:
1½ cups of pan drippings from the roasting chicken
½ cup white wine
1 cup water (or more, if gravy is too thick)
¼ cup Wondra flour (see note)
¼ teaspoon Gravy Master
Salt and pepper to taste
When the chicken is done, carefully pour or ladle 1½ cups of drippings into a saucepan. Add the Wondra flour, and whisk it until smooth. Add the wine and water; heat the gravy to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Add Gravy Master or Maggi seasoning to achieve a golden brown color and additional saltiness.
Simmer until the gravy is thickened to a desired consistency. Taste for flavor; add salt and pepper, if desired.
Note: Wondra flour is used for sauces and gravies; it dissolves well and does not form lumps. If it is not available, simply mix equal parts of all-purpose flour with water to form a smooth paste, and add that to the gravy.