comfort food in a not so comforting moment

The Atlanta area got hit with some major ridiculous weather the past couple of days, which has left roads blocked, damaged, flooded, people stranded and sadly, worse. I myself didn’t go in to work – they evacuated my building yesterday mid afternoon anyway, as it was losing power. I can work just as well from home, and in fact get a lot more work done without constant interruptions from the riff raff at the office.

The boy hasn’t been so lucky, as he’s had to go in to work. I knew that after a long day with a commute from hell that he’d want something warm and comforting for dinner, something that once he walked in the door and smelled the aroma in the air, would make it worth coming home to. So I roasted a chicken.

I’ve mentioned before that roasted chicken is one of my favorite comfort foods, and fortunately it doesn’t take a long time to prepare. i’ve been using this recipe for years, but even I will admit that sometimes I don’t feel like messing with the chicken every 20 minutes, flipping it around and whatnot. You can just throw it in the oven for an hour and 10 minutes and it’s pretty much done.

If you’ve got a v-rack, like the one pictured above, use that. A lot of roasting pans these days come with one. I have an adjustable one, but a stationary one is just fine. If you don’t have a v-rack, you could use one of those grid-like cooling racks used for baked goods and put that on top of a lipped sheet pan, or make a bed of celery stalks/carrots/potatoes, and place your chicken on top of that. I prefer to have the chicken elevated off of the roasting pan because if I don’t, the bottom part of the chicken against the pan will sit in it’s own melted fat; while this is not necessarily bad at all, it makes for a kind of whitish area and flabby skin – unappealing really.

I do a couple of things to the chicken before tossing it onto the rack. Earlier in the day, or even the night before, take a stick (or half a stick – depends on personal preference) of butter out of the fridge and let come to smooshable room temperature. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Put the room temperature butter in a bowl and add things to it, things like dried herbs, herbes de Provence, lemon zest, fresh herbs – it’s really up to you. There are no measurements for this, just add what you have that sounds good. I would watch how much dried herb you put in though, because too much dried herbs can really be too much. Then, mush all this together with your (very clean) hands, or with a fork if you’re squeamish about that stuff. Set aside while you prep your chicken.

Get a small bowl of kosher salt and have that handy, as well as some canola or vegetable oil – you want these separate from their original containers so as to not contaminate them with raw chicken. Remove store packaging from the chicken (the supermarket chickens I get are around 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. in case you’re wondering), reach into the cavities (both ends) to fish out any parts that might be shoved in there – discard parts if you’d like, or save them for another use. Rinse the chicken under cold water then pat dry with paper towels. Set the chicken on a plastic cutting board.

You’ll want to do something about those pesky chicken wings that are sticking straight up in the breeze. I usually bend these back out of the way, like so:

It might need some coaxing, but it’s doable. Get over your squeamishness now – this is not the time for wilting violets.

Next, take a small handful of the compound butter you made earlier and very carefully push it under the breast skin trying not to rip the skin. Put as much of it under there as you’d like on both sides. Shove whatever butter is left into the cavity. You can also shove any number of things in the cavity, such as the lemon used earlier for zest (cut in half), a bulb of garlic cut in half or even just a few cloves, a handful of parsley, etc.

Now, douse the entire chicken all over with the canola or vegetable oil. Make sure all exposed surfaces are coated. Liberally coat all over with the kosher salt.

Put the rack onto a roasting pan. Using spray oil or even just a paper towel folded up and coated with canola oil, grease up the rack you’re using. Place chicken on top of the rack. Dump about a half cup of water into the bottom of the rack. This will prevent flare ups when the chicken fat starts dripping down into the bottom of the pan. Put chicken in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Check the temperature of the breast, it should be 160 F. I usually cook my chickens anywhere between 1 hour and 10 mn to 1 hour and 20 mn and it’s done. Remove chicken from the oven and let rest to the side. You can wait a few minutes and remove the chicken from the rack onto a carving board (remove from rack using clean kitchen towel or an old pair of oven mitts) and tent with foil.

As an accompaniment to the chicken, I also roasted some onions on the side. You could roast these after the chicken comes out of the oven (or even do it earlier in the day – this dish can be served room temperature). You could do it at the same time but adjust your cooking time, as the original recipe calls for them to be roasted at a higher temperature than the chicken. I will admit that I totally snagged this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa at Home, slightly modified. I absolutely love roasted onions. This recipe makes enough for two to three people as a side.

2 red onions
fresh thyme sprigs
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut onions in half root to sprout end, then peel each half, keeping root intact. Cut wedges of onion through theroot, that way the wedges stay intact. Put onion wedges in a bowl.

Make vinaigrette by mixing lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl then drizzling in the olive oil all while mixing with a fork or small whisk. Toss vinaigrette with the onions. With a slotted spoon or by hand, move the onions to a baking sheet, and save the bowl with the vinaigrette in it. Put baking sheet in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and toss the onions or flip them with a spatula. Replace pan in oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until onions are browned and soft. Remove from oven, drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette, top with fresh parsley, and serve warm or at room temperature.


jbl said…
Looks good! One quick question: Have you ever trussed the chicken?
french tart said…
nope, never have; and in fact i was going to write about that, but in my haste to get pics in this post, i forgot. some people do, i guess it helps the chicken cook more evenly, but i've never had a problem with cooking a chicken without trussing.

if i'm going to stuff a bird, say like a cornish hen, trussing is necessary, not just for even cooking but also to keep all the goodies from falling out of the cavity.
french tart said…
btw thanks for the info on Lazarus.

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