Friday, July 21, 2006

Crispy Green Chicken

I’m not adverse to trying new things.

But new things have a certain inertia to overcome before they have a chance of dislodging the tried and true. They have to prove their worth under fire, so to speak.

This is not because I am so much a tradition-based person, which I’m not. It has much more to do with the fact that I usually have less time to prepare meals than I would like, so it’s just easier, and quicker, to turn off the brain and go with the usual.

None the less, I’d seen everyone stuffing herbs under the skins of their chickens before roasting for some time now. Usually basil. Then roasting it. And swooning about the wonderful results.

Whereas I usually stuff the cavity with fresh lemons, thyme and parsley. And swoon about my results.

But today, I had a few minutes more than usual on my hands. And a pile of fresh basil as well. Two distinctly unusual circumstances. Time to tinker.

Another thing I wanted to try was a technique I’d seen from Alton Brown’s ‘Good Eats’ FoodNetwork show. He does not roast the Chicken whole, but instead cuts it open along the back and roasts it flattened out. So that it roasts faster, resulting in less drying out of the chicken, especially the breast meat.

To me, you loose a nice pocket for holding your lemons. And I love the flavor of the lemon in both the chicken and in the resulting pan gravy. But hey – I can give it a try once!

So I cut the beast. Right along the backbone. And, with another small cut or two along the sides, opened it up and got it pretty flat. It was connected between the breasts. I set it on top of some celery stalks in a roasting pan. You naturally need a larger roasting pan for this trick.

Then came the basil part. I gingerly felt around the junction of the skin and the raw flesh. With some manipulations, the skin loosened, and I was able to stick a few fingers beneath the skin. I continued to work my fingers deeper and deeper along the skin, until I had pretty much the whole skin loosened like a big pocket, but still attached to the bird. Working my fingers back and forth under the skin, I now know what it must be like to perform a liposuction. Distinctly not so pleasant as you might imagine.

Lots of room for basil, though. So I pushed as much in as possible, trying to get it to the far corners of the bird.

An olive oil rub on top, and into a hot oven. 425ºF.

While it was roasting, it occurred to me that the next time, I want to make a sort of gremolata, maybe from chopped basil, parsley, garlic and lemon zest, maybe a little lemon juice, and possibly some minced anchovies as well, and stuff that under the skin before roasting. See how that works.

Anyways, the results were good. The skin, having been loosened from the meat, and rubbed with olive oil, was super crispy. Of course, no one eats skin anymore but the dog (cursed cholesterol!). Plus, you could certainly both smell and taste the basil, as it had really infused the entire roasted chicken. And, of course, the basil went right onto everyone’s plate as part of the chicken, instead of being thrown away as when stuffed in the cavity. So that all seemed good.

The cooking time was obviously less than if I had roasted the bird whole, maybe 2/3s as long. I can’t say that the meat was any juicier. Seemed about the same to me.

But you do have to get over the fact that your roast chicken is now green. Quite a bright green in some places (despite my poor pictures). This caught some off guard. Green meat seems to be flagged on a genetic level as something to avoid.

I think this one is worth trying again, despite the green. Especially with the gremolata stuffed under the skin.

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