Whole roast chickens are really not difficult at all. I’m not sure why there is such a preoccupation with them, but maybe it has something to do with the perceived need to intricately dress and stuff them. Literally the only stuffing ingredients for this chicken can be found on this cutting board. A roughly chopped onion, some smashed garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, a few slices of butter, and salt & pepper. I generally prepare all of these things first, and I make sure to put the salt and pepper in a separate bowl. This is to keep the prep area as clean as possible. Yes, after touching the raw chicken I touch the onion, garlic, thyme, and butter too; and yes, I’m going to wash the cutting board anyway. I just find that when rubbing the skin and sprinkling the cavity of the bird with salt and pepper, it’s a lot easier and cleaner to not have to deal with salt and pepper shakers. You’re basically going to be fondling the hell out of the bird, and you don’t want to have to stop to wash your hands every time you need to crank…the pepper mill.
I personally don’t think it’s necessary to tie up a chicken this small (approximately 8 pounds) because there’s so little meat that there isn’t much concern for uneven cooking. In other words, the dark meat is going to take roughly almost the same amount of time as the white meat. When you’re cooking for 1-2 people, this is always going to be the case.
Lately, Eats Meats West has been testing out a new dual-probe digital thermometer, and tonight was no exception. Generally, it has proven to be a useful tool mostly for the ability to measure the temperature over time rather than simply when the final temperature (180 degrees Fahrenheit) has been reached. I’m more concerned with getting to 180 over 2-3 hours than I am with getting there as soon as possible. In a gas oven [in a tiny NYC kitchen] it is not surprisingly very difficult to maintain a constant temperature of 350 (or even the range of 325-375) regardless of how many times the door is opened to baste, thus releasing steam and radiant heat.
Speaking of basting, I try to limit the olive oil just because ideally I’m going to be taking that out in the sauce anyway. I prefer chicken stock, finely minced herbs (to also give the skin a varied textural appearance), salt/pepper, and a little olive oil.
EMW’s general rule for foretelling “doneness” is to visually inspect the skin every 25 minutes, baste, and keep a mental note of the progression of the browning. The breast meat should certainly brown first (if it doesn’t…wow, what did you do?), but it should not brown in the first 30-60 minutes. If that happens, then probably too much butter was put under the top layer of skin and/or the oven rack should be lowered and/or the temperature dropped.
One final note, and we’ll move on: if you aren’t going to eat the dark meat, use it for something else for crying out loud! You may have noticed that this bird is missing its wings. I waited until they were fully cooked before removing them and adding them to the burgeoning gravy on the stovetop. In these frugal times one might be tempted to think that all meat should be saved and put to some explicit use, and that a sauce does not constitute a priority. One should make chicken salad, right? Yah, well, that involves a lot of picking at meat not to mention having to prepare an entirely separate set of ingredients later on for a chicken salad…that no one is going to finish anyway. Instead, I say just chuck that unwanted meat into the gravy. It may only last for this one meal, but on the other hand that gravy gonna be damn delish you hear gurl. Let it stew with the rest of the flavorings (in this case shallots, garlic, thyme, and pan drippings) and eventually it will break apart (aside from the bones, obviously) and become part of the melange to be strained out at the end.
Moving on – no, those aren’t dismembered alien fingers. They’re what I thought would be an appetizing veggie: baby zucchini. I roasted them alongside the chicken, albeit in a segregated foil pocket. Yah, so they weren’t that flavorful. J actually ate more than I.
The toast points were topped with Pico (an aged goat) that I had lying around and some fresh basil. J didn’t love those, but I was bout-it bout-it.