Best roast chicken EVER!

August 14, 2016

An old-fashioned Southern Sunday dinner. Yum.

An old-fashioned Southern Sunday dinner. Yum.

People. Make this chicken.

Now, mind, it will be better if (a) you have a steam-convection oven, and (b) if you have a farm-raised chicken. In fact, the latter may be critical, given that you brine this baby, and I’m not positive you can get a grocery store chicken, even an organic one, that isn’t injected with water or saline solution as part of its processing, and that negates the ability of the bird to soak up brine.

The CSO is helpful, but not, I don’t think, critical. This is essentially the same process, though the recipe is different, that I used to brine the best turkey I ever cooked, back last Thanksgiving, and that sure wouldn’t fit in the CSO, which I didn’t have then, anyway. I think it’s the farm-raised, small-batch-processed, not-full-of-added-fluid that’s key. I mean, look at chicken when you buy it; it’s right there on the package (albeit in small print) — up to xx percent water added by volume.

Folks, water’s less than 20 bucks a month. I ain’t paying for it by the ounce as part of my chicken. When you subtract that 10 percent from the weight of your chicken (or chicken pieces), and figure the difference in the ultimate price-per-pound, farm-raised chicken isn’t as much more expensive as you thought.

Plus, dammit, it tastes better. With apologies to my Poultry Federation buddy, Don.

Anyway. This chicken is brined per the New York Times’ recipe for Beer Brined Chicken, here. At least mostly. I had neither a leek nor shallots, so I subbed a Vidalia onion. I did not have lager; I had a red farmhouse-style ale (Abita Amber Ale). The rest was pretty much by the book, until it came to cooking.

I didn’t want roast chicken with veggies, as I already had veggies planned, because I had fresh purple hulled peas, fresh corn, and ripe tomatoes. Thanks all the same, but I didn’t want roasted carrots, potatoes and Brussels sprouts over that. So I pulled the bird out of the brine this morning, dried him off, sprinkled him well inside with salt, pepper, dried thyme and dried sage (because it was raining and I didn’t want to go outside and clip any). Didn’t use the lemon, because, well, I didn’t have one of those, either. Then I rubbed the skin down with olive oil, salted and peppered him, and into the CSO he went, 400F for an hour on steam bake.

Just a good tan on that chicken, that's all.

Just a good tan on that chicken, that’s all.

At the end of 30 minutes, I checked him, and the skin was already well on its way to getting too dark. I covered his breast with foil, and shoved him back in there. I meant to check him at 50 minutes, and forgot, and pulled him out when his buzzer went off at an hour. Checked the temp with my meat thermometer, just to be sure; breast was 175, thigh was almost 190. I crimped the foil down over him and draped him with a dishtowel as a safeguard against a pesky fly, and went about my business.

People. That chicken was as near perfect as a chicken can be that’s not saturated in smoke and barbecue rub. It was moist, juicy, tender, and had a great, delicate flavor from the brine and herbs. It was good enough I saved the cup of jus and fat that drained out of it, which I will use tomorrow to make gravy, which I will have with sliced chicken, mashed potatoes and green peas, and I’ll still have enough chicken left to do some sort of casserole-ish thing, or enchiladas, or some such.

Hell. I may have to make yeast rolls to go with that.

The tenderness and juiciness, especially of the breast meat in a bird I was afraid I might have overcooked, mirrors exactly the experience I had with the turkey last year. I am a convert. Never again will I roast a whole chicken without brining that baby first.

As best I recall, the turkey’s brine was different, pairing apple juice with the water, instead of lager. The key, though, is plenty of salt and some sugar, with some aromatics.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em find you a farmer that raises chickens, and get you one. Cook him like this. I swear it’ll change your thinking about supermarket birds.




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