Monday, December 26, 2005

Roasted Chicken

Since it was just my wife, my son, and me for Christmas dinner yesterday, I skipped the traditional turkey and went with a roasted chicken instead. This is something we eat in our house at least once a week. It's one of the most basic dishes there is, and also one of the tastiest. And it's blissfully easy to make.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take one 3-4 pound broiler chicken. Remove the livers, necks, and other stuff in the body cavity (I freeze the chicken necks and use them for stock).

Create a rub for the chicken by combining the following: 1 clove garlic diced fine, 1 T kosher salt, ground black pepper, and about a teaspoon each of whatever spices you have on hand. I typically use minced parsley, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. Stir in enough olive oil to make a thin paste (1 to 2 T, usually).

Place the chicken breast-side down in a roasting pan or other ovenproof disk (I use Pyrex baking pans) and smear a few teaspoons of the paste over the back and legs of the chicken. Turn the chicken over breast-up and coat the skin with the rest of the rub. Put in the 350 degree oven and bake 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, until the cavity juices run clear. You may want to let it sit for 10 minutes or so before carving and serving.

It's about as simple as can be, but a roasted chicken is one of the those indescribably good comfort foods. My wife and I are nuts for the crispy, salty skin and usually peel off most of the breast skin well before the chicken makes to to the table.

Sidenote on selecting chickens: For years I've been using the regular 3-4 pound broilers when roasting chicken, probably because they are so cheap (less than $4 bucks, usually). The few times I've tried going upscale and purchasing one of those $7 to $10 roasters I have been bitterly disappointed. Everything I have read has said that roasters (which are larger and older birds) have better flavor than a broiler, and in a sense that is true in that the meat itself has a stronger flavor while a broiler tends to be very mild. But, my roasters have always come out with an unpleasant toughness to the meat, especially in the dark meat, which is my favorite part. I suspect it may be because of the lower fat-to-meat ratio, and fat's what make things tender and tasty.

Part of me suspects the roaster may be, like grass-fed beef, one of those things where once you get used to the difference you begin to appreciate the tougher texture and stronger flavor. It's twice as expensive, after all, so surely it must be better? Perhaps in the name of gastronomy I should go for the roaster and teach myself to like it.

But I'm not going to. I'm sticking with the broiler. It's just so damn good.

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