Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Easy Whole Chicken Dinner

Chicken and pork absorb and amplify flavors just as well as beef adds its own to any meal. Let's walk through a simple yet impressively delicious whole chicken preparation!
1) Let a whole chicken sit out at room temperature for about an hour. If it has been frozen (check! Many grocery stores slightly freeze their whole chickens) make sure it's totally thawed out before cooking. Ignore the slit I made, I got knife-happy and was on to the next step before I took the picture. Leave it sealed while it gets to room temp!

2)When working with raw meats, I like to have a bowl of soapy antibacterial water or a bowl of vinegar with a hand towel ready. A whole chicken requires a very hands-on process, so running to the faucet and soap over and over between steps will drive you crazy. Don't touch anything with raw chicken hands (the faucet, soap bottle, vegetables, knives, etc.) you don't plan on immediately sterilizing.
3) Preheat the oven to 425°F and cut up some vegetables for stuffing. I like to stuff a chicken's cavity with the top 8" of a celery bunch, half of an onion cut into four pieces, four smashed garlic cloves, and a lemon cut up into eighths. By the way, did you know that refrigerated onions don't make you cry?
 4) Put the chicken into a clean sink (or a good plastic cutting board with a moat to collect running juices) before opening its seal. Pull out the giblets from the cavity and discard if you're not making broth or gravy.
5) Place the chicken onto a working surface (I went ahead and put it in the roasting pan). Take fairly generous, equal amounts of salt and pepper and rub all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Remember to sanitize those salt and pepper containers if you touched them with chicken hands!
 ...Pretty awesome that I got that chicken to do a handstand for the camera!
 6) Now stuff the cavity randomly with all the vegetables. Have no mercy, it will fit! You can even make shallow slits in the skin and stuff rosemary sprigs, thyme, fennel, lemon that the skin holds it against the flesh.
 7) Take a twine, string, thread, dental floss...whatever ya got...and tie the chicken's legs together. I find it easiest to secure the twine to one leg and do a figure-8 motion around the 2 legs, finally tying it off when I think it's tight enough.
8) Place the chicken in the oven for 1 hour at 425°F, then turn the oven down to 375°F for another 30 minutes, baking for a total of 1.5 hours.
9) I snuck Barefoot Contessa's (Ina Garten's) Oven-Roasted Vegetables recipe in the oven with it for a total of 45 minutes at 425°F. Here's the recipe.
10) Remove the chicken from the oven and cut into the meat flush against the thigh or the breast, areas deep into the chicken, to make sure all juices run CLEAR and there is no pink juice. This indicates that it's been cooked thoroughly!

11) Serve and enjoy! This bird will last you a few meals, probably about 8. With the vegetables and everything, this came out to less than $2.50 a meal! To make broth with the carcass left over at the end of the week, put the carcass with all the leftover juices and stuffed vegetables in a pot and completely cover with water. Add a few more dashes of salt and pepper and boil for about 1.5-2 hours.

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