our place with a little snow

First Snow – Roast Chicken!

Portland got its first measurable snow of the winter today. It feels genuinely brisk outside. That can only mean one thing: roast chicken.

For tonight’s main event I’m roasting a medium sized supermarket generic bird and keeping it simple: salt, smoked paprika, and a hefty sprinkle of the always handy Tuscan Sunset herb blend.

When roasting I almost always add, at least, a quartered medium, or several quartered, small onions. Tonight we happened to have assorted fingerling potatoes hanging around, so they get to join the party.

Process is dead-simple: I wash the bird, pat it dry and allow it to come to room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil, spreading it all over the bird, place it on the rack breast side down (I’m ambivalent to bird position for roasting and tend to change it up each time I roast) , add the assorted potatoes and onions, season with salt, paprika and Tuscan Sunset, then pop it in the pre-heated 375 degree oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes. At the end of that time drop the temp to 325 (I started early on this project, so I have some time to kill) and set the timer for 30 minutes.

While the bird is roasting I pull out the vegetables and get them ready either for steaming or roasting in the toaster oven.

Tonight the green vegetable will be Romanesco broccoli.

I treat Romanesco pretty much the same way I treat cauliflower: wash, dry, toss with olive oil then sprinkle all manner of herbs. Garlic, thyme, a little rosemary.

Is it Done Yet?

A couple years ago I became a convert to the Thermapen. Now I don’t prepare food without it. I won’t go into food safety here as there are hundreds of websites who present exhaustive research, but suffice to say the only way to know if food is cooked is to use a calibrated instant-read thermometer. That being said, if it’s just me and Annette, I don’t cook chicken to 165. My food hero, J. Kenji López-Alt, explains the science behind pasteurization as a function of time and temperature at his website better than I can, so if you’re curious head over there.

I tend to roast whole chicken to about 150, but since I tend to use a lower oven temp my birds sit above the pasteurization temp for a greater amount of time.

For tonight’s bird, I flipped it over, breast side up, at the half hour mark, set another half hour on the timer. I’ll begin taking its temperature at the 20 minute point. Due to the slightly low oven temp if the skin on the breast isn’t browning, but we’re coming up on the 150 mark, I’ll fire up the broiler for the last ten minutes or so to hasten some browning. But now that I’m old I’m no longer obsessed with crackly chicken skin. It’s lovely when salted just right, but it has a billion calories that I have to compensate for by eating (or drinking) less of something else. These days we give nearly all skin to the dog.

The key point so many of us blow right past is resting the bird. The breast meat shows 150, but touch the probe to a bone and the temp shoots up past 170. It’s the resting phase that lets the temps equalize, the juices re-distribute, and affords me the time to make a pan sauce with the collected drippings.

Oh, speaking of dogs, tonight Kaylee’s best buddy is staying over. His name is Leon. He’s all boy husky, and he’s awesome. He is incredibly well socialized while simultaneously self-confident. Leon’s one cautionary trait is he’s a master food thief. No, really. Chickens resting after a roast are prime targets. Even knowing this he still manages to poke holes in my plans. Fortunately, the chicken is secure, but he did manage to get a full third of my bacon fat repository.