Monday, October 4, 2010

The Best Roast Chicken, IMO

After a week of extreme hot weather here in Southern California with temperatures up to 109° , we finally got a break and now feeling a bit of autumn in the air.  It's gray outside, and the weatherman says there's a 10% chance of rain.  It is a good day for roasting chicken.

I have an organic free range chicken brining in the fridge for a couple of days now, and I couldn't wait to hear it sizzling in the oven. Ever since I stumbled on this recipe I have been obsessed by it.  It's called the Simplest Roasted Chicken as adopted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Zuni Cafe is based in San Francisco.  I have not eaten there but I suppose they are known for delicious roast chicken. I do not own the book either, but I read over at that the full recipe (including a bread salad) is about 4 3/4 pages long.  Whoa!  Well, I am glad I found a short version first.  An easy to follow one over at seattlest or I'll be completely intimidated and just settle on buying my roast chicken at Costco.  

I have tried several Roast Chicken recipes but none come close to be as good as this one.  I was not happy with the results.  They didn't brown as beautiful and were not as succulent.  I have almost given up on roasting chicken, but I thank my angels for helping me find the way.  I was so proud of myself that day I first cooked this for dinner - out from the oven it was beaming with it's beautiful color and indeed it was finger lickin' good!    Having been so impressed by it, I googled Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken  and holy molly - people are crazy for it, it's a religion!   Basically, I'm late to the party but what the heck, I am going to blog about it anyways and join its many many fans.

The technique is not rocket science - small bird, seasoning the chicken in advance and high heat. However I have tried it with a bigger bird, upto 4 1/2 lbs and still it came out as good.  Of course you just have to cook it longer, 1 hr 10 minutes total for a 4 1/2 lb chicken.

Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds (or upto 4 1/2 pounds)

4-6 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
about 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt for every pound of chicken
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

optional : insert 1 whole garlic and 1 lemon cut in halves

     Season the chicken with salt and pepper about 1 to 3 days before roasting.
  1. First remove any giblets & fats inside cavity. Rinse the chicken then dry thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. (The drier it is, the better. More moisture means more time steaming before it starts browning.) 
  2. From the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each breast to make little pockets. Slide a sprig of each herb inside each pocket and put remaining sprigs inside cavity. 
  3. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt & pepper, massaging and concentrating more on the meaty parts than the bony parts. Sprinkle also some salt inside the cavity. 
  4. Place chicken in a square dish, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken (so that there is not much room for the fat to burn in). For my case, I choose a 10-inch cast iron skillet to do the job. 
  6. Preheat the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Dry chicken with paper towels, and place in hot pan breast side up. It should sizzle! 
  7. Place pan & chicken inside the oven. The chicken should start browning within 20 minutes. If not increase the temperature by 25° . The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char or the fat is smoking reduce the temperature by 25°. After 30 minutes gently turn the bird over. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes depending on size (for 4 1/2 pound, 30 minutes). Flip back over breast side up to re-crisp about 5 to 10 minutes (10-15 minutes for 4 1/2 lbs). 
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven and transfer to a cutting board or platter. Rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into pieces to allow its juices to redistribute back into the tissues. 

Note: Some reviewers of this recipe complained about too much smoke when cooking in this method. One solution which worked for me is adding potatoes around the chicken, in the open space around it to soak up the fat so it does not burn. I use fingerling potatoes but you can also use thinly sliced disks of russet potatoes.  Add the potatoes when you turn the chicken breast side down. I suggest precooking the potatoes in the microwave for 2-3 minutes before adding to the pan.

Now, if you find yourself short of a day to salt in advance this recipe is also worth a try.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...