Friday, March 22, 2013

íTis the season for roast chicken

The Beet

Express Staff Writer

    A food column in March should be about something green. Not only is it the month of St. Patrick’s Day, but March is the month when we start yearning for springtime cuisine, filled with asparagus, peas and maybe kale or arugula.
    But it’s snowing again in Ketchum, and one of my greatest foodie faults is that I cannot bring myself to eat a salad for dinner when there’s snow on the ground.
    Lately, I have been working around this problem by roasting a lot of vegetables, a process that heats up my tiny apartment and results in some exquisitely healthy and delicious side dishes. Take some beets, drizzle them with olive oil, roast them for an hour at 375. Peel, eat, repeat and then see if you’re still grumpy that it’s cold and cloudy.  
    Woman cannot live on beets alone, however, and she must eventually branch into roasting other things—a whole chicken, for example.
    The idea of roasting an entire bird intimidates some, especially when skinless, boneless chicken breasts are so convenient. But roasting a whole chicken is worth the effort, if only so you can eat the hot and crispy skin right out of the oven. If you get a good chicken and follow the roasting instructions below, you’re going to get a skin that’s perfectly browned and covers a wonderfully moist chicken.
    Whole chickens are cheaper by weight than their partitioned-out counterparts. Usually, when I make a chicken, I end up eating it as is for two meals. Then, I carefully pick the carcass of all remaining useful meat (something that is as oddly fun as it is macabre) and use the scraps to top salads, to make chicken salad or to save for soup. The picked-over carcass is then plopped in my largest pot and simmered with carrots, onions, thyme and maybe some lemon peel to make a stock so good that people won’t believe you made it.
    The trick to roasting a perfect chicken is in the skin, of course. After thoroughly rinsing the bird inside and out, it must be dried very carefully and salted. A few recipes I have call for letting the chicken sit in a fridge overnight—I don’t love the idea of a germy raw chicken possibly infecting everything else in my fridge, so I don’t do that, but it does make for a crisper skin.
    The recipe below calls for removing the chicken’s backbone and crunching the bird flat. Not only does this eliminate flipping the bird and maybe tearing the skin, it significantly reduces the amount of time required for the actual roasting. If you like, save the backbone and use it for your stock later.
    Technically, this technique is called “spatchcocking,” which is really fun to say and pretty effective if you want to use it as a substitute swear word (as I did when grabbing the pan accidentally without a potholder).
    Serve this with those beets you roasted and the potatoes that are roasted here in the same pan as the chicken—thus absorbing all of that chicken fat—and I think it will help make up for the fact that summer is a solid three months away.

Flat-Roasted Chicken with Golden Potatoes

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook


One 3- to 3 1/2-lb whole chicken

Table salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 lbs small Yukon gold potatoes

2 tbsp. melted butter

1 lemon

Fresh thyme


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thoroughly rinse and dry the chicken. Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken. This takes muscle and more than a little bit of grit, but it is doable. Save the backbone for stock.

Flatten out the chicken, press down on the breastbone until you hear it crack. Pat down again with paper towels or a tea towel, and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Lay the bird breast-side-up in a roasting pan or a large cast-iron skillet (which is what I like to use). Nestle the potatoes around the outside of the chicken, somewhat under it if necessary.

Roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees F.  (Please check this! Roast chicken can be tricky and food poisoning is never fun.)

Once the chicken is finished, transfer it from the pan to a carving board and carve as desired. Squeeze some of the lemon over the chicken and sprinkle it with fresh herbs. Serve with potatoes.

 Kate Wutz:

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