Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recession-Proof Roast Chicken

One of the best ways to replicate the flavor and quality of restaurant food at home is to roast a chicken. There are a couple of things you can do to make it truly special. First, buy yourself a humble bird- it need not come from the local farmer's market. Take it home, open it up in your sink, and remove any body parts found in the cavity. Wrap these in plastic and place them in your freezer (more on that later). Now rinse the bird inside and out under the ice-cold water that runs from the Cascades into our taps. Refresh it like your rinsing an infant. Then pat it dry with paper towel, every last crease and crevice. Here comes the important part. Pour a healthy amount of salt into a little bowl. For those who want to measure: your bird should be about 4 to 5 pounds, so measure about 3 tablespoons of large grain salt, less if its iodized or fine sea salt. This is an unseemly amount of salt. Welcome to restaurant cooking! Into your salt grind some black peppercorns, about twenty turns of the mill. If you don't own a mill, go to Goodwill and buy one. Preground pepper is utterly useless. Stir these together well. Now take your pristine chicken and season it inside and out, rubbing your salt and pepper over every last inch of it, even the wings. When your bird is seasoned, place it on a plate lined with fresh paper towel, and set it uncovered in the fridge overnight. This is essential. Sleep poorly while you dream of your chicken. Let hunger gnaw at your sanity the whole next day (but don't starve yourself completely!). Instead of longing for an expensive tryst at How to Cook a Wolf, think of How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher's World War Two meditation on how to "keep the wolf at bay", the wolf of hunger, that is. When you think you are ready, remove the chicken from the fridge and place it on the counter. Look at it one last time before its transformation. Turn up your oven to 450, 500 if you are courageous. Set your cast-iron skillet in the oven to heat up. If you don't own one, go back to Goodwill. It is cheap and worth its weight in gold. When it's hot, pour a little oil in the bottom, tilt the pan to spread it around, and place your chicken in the pan. Truss it first if you know how. Cook it for one hour at high heat, then lower the temperature to 350 or maybe 325 if you are cautious, and bring the chicken home. After a second hour of pure torture, remove it from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the chicken and let it rest on a plate or board for another 5. Your skillet should be filled with half an inch of liquid gold. Pour this into a small bowl and let it cool. You can relive your roast chicken ten times or more by using this fat to cook your next meals. Try it for scrambled eggs on the weekend! After you devour your bird, freeze the carcass, to be used later with the innards, to make chicken stock. That's the problem with cooking. It never really ends.

1 comment:

Scotty said...

Liquid Gold? It's schmaltz!

I spectacularly frakked up last night's roast chicken. My wife blamed it on not getting the picture of the Chinese Kitchen God back up right away.

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