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Friday, October 1, 2010

Poulet Rôti or Roast Chicken

I have a very active two-year-old. I write that and kind of snicker as "active" is an understatement. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in his ancestry, he shares genes with the Roadrunner from Bugs Bunny cartoons. On any given night, I'm so exhausted from chasing him around that frozen dinners would be not only understood, but readily forgiven by anyone who observes Amir. But I love to cook. However, Mastering the Art of French Cooking on your average Friday night is a little punishing.

I've mentioned in an earlier post about Turkish cooking that it is very much like French cooking: simple ingredients and simple food but labor-intensive when done right. This meal is very French--roast chicken and pan fried potatoes. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. I'd like to dedicate this meal to Bob the Builder, with a special shout out to Rolly. Thanks to a 40-minute episode, my family was able to enjoy poulet rôti, pommes de terres sautées and clafoutis pêche. That's all prep time. Between bastings and skillet shakes, we busied ourselves playing cars on the kitchen floor.

I've separated this meal into three different posts: chicken, potatoes and dessert. So let's get crackin' on how Mrs. Julia Child and Mrs. Shannon Kinayman together prepare a chicken, shall we?

Poulet Rôti

1 whole ready-to-cook roasting chicken (about 3-4 pounds)

1/2 tsp salt, divided

4 tbsp softened butter, divided

1/3 bag baby carrots

1 small onion, quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and smear in half the butter. Dry it thoroughly, and rub the skin with the rest of the butter.

2. Place the chicken breast up in the roasting pan. Strew the vegetables around it, and set it on a rack in the middle of the preheated oven. Allow the chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, turning it to the left side after 5 minutes, on the right side for the last 5 minutes, and basting it with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of melted butter and one tablespoon of olive oil after each turn. Baste rapidly so the oven does not cool off.

3. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Leave the chicken on its side, and baste every 8 to 10 minutes, using the fat in the roasting pan when the butter and oil are exhausted. Regulate oven heat so chicken is making cooking noises, but fat is not burning.

4. Cook between 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. A done chicken will register at 180 degrees when a meat thermometer is stuck into the breast (making sure not to touch the bone).

The Verdict: Don't hate me because I didn't invite you to dinner. And despite needing a massage and a good night's sleep after all that popping in and out of the oven, it was well with it for a juicy, moist and beautifully browned bird.

There's actually more to the Julia Child recipe, including making gravy. Gravy is great, but I'm the only one who eats it in my family, so it's a step I skip. There's also lots of stuff about doneness; spluttering fat and yellow juices. Hello, it's 2010. Buy a meat thermometer. Also, there's a lot about trussing the chicken. Trussing helps the bird to keep its shape while cooking, but it also doesn't allow the entire bird to brown evenly. Some will even argue that it doesn't allow for uniform doneness. So truss, don't truss. It will taste the same.

Now, here's my confession. I'm not very happy about tonight's level of browned skin. One side was lovely, one, wasn't. That would be because while goofing with the timer on the oven, I shut the oven off for a short period during the 425 degree phase. The oven was hot enough to cook the meat, but not intense enough to brown the skin. So at the end, I basted the bird again, set it on its side and set it to broil for about 3 minutes. Julia wouldn't approve, I'm sure, but in a pinch, it works.

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