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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Easy Peasy Roast Chicken

Guest Blogger Amy Friedman shares her recipe for a classic comfort dish:

Every recipe book says roast chicken is THE easiest thing to cook. However, according to my friend Ruth, the lovely lady who helps run this fab blog, roast chicken is actually surprisingly tough to do well. For everyone, the tough parts are different: is it having moist meat? Tasty meat? Crispy skin? Hating basting? Could even be as simple as just takes too much darn time and attention. 

After several years of experimenting with various techniques, I finally hit on a surefire way to get a lovely moist roast bird with an absolute minimum of fuss and bother. Warning: If you're a huge fan of crispy skin, skip this recipe, as there won't be a lot - just some over the breast and around the legs.

The most important piece of equipment you'll need is a three-quart Dutch oven with a lid. 

Easy Peasy Roast Chicken

1. Buy a 3 1/2 -pound chicken. Unwrap, take out the giblets, and rinse. 

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. Put the chicken, breast side up, in the Dutch oven. If you want, you can dice an onion or two and sprinkle on the bottom. Sometimes I do, sometimes no. Put the neck (if it came with the giblets) next to the chicken.

4. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with your favorite mix of spices. I like black, red, and white pepper, garlic powder, oregano and dill. 

5: This is important: Take a largeish whole onion, slice off the top and bottom, skin it, and put it inside the chicken. This will keep the chicken from drying out. If you don't have an onion, an apple works fine. The onion's better, because you can eat it after the chicken has roasted.

6. Once the oven has heated, put the lid on the Dutch oven and stick the whole thing in the oven. 

Timing: 20 minutes per pound, plus an extra 20 to 30 minutes. If you've got a three-pound chicken, the bird will be in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. 

For crispier skin, it's okay to remove the lid for the last half hour or so. However, I've found I get enough crispy skin for a happy husband without lifting the lid.

Once the timer bings (always use a timer!), turn off the oven, let the chicken sit in the oven for about ten minutes, then take it out. Uncover the chicken, let it rest for about 15 minutes, then remove it from the pot. 

Every time I've used this method, I've gotten very tender, moist, falling-off-the-bone chicken with nicely spiced, crispy top skin. If the chicken's fatty, I also get a lot of nice drippings, which I save and reuse.

The last chicken I cooked this way must have been an athlete, because there weren't a lot of drippings! What there was, however, was densely flavorful, so I used it to cook the snow peas I was serving with the bird.

The cool thing about this method is that you can break up the cooking time. For larger chickens, I've started it the night before, on very low heat (250 degrees), turned it off in the morning, and then restarted it at 4 p.m., turning the oven up to 375. (I leave the chicken in the oven during the day; the Dutch oven retains a lot of heat, which keeps the cooking process going almost like a barbecue.) 

Moist meat, crispy skin, no basting, no fuss. Pop it in, do your laundry or take a nap, and awaken to a great dinner. What could be easier?

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