Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Chicken is our thing. We love cooking fish, and pork, and beef roasts, and steaks. But chicken is our go-to dish, the meat we do the most, and the one at which we are probably the best. And roasted chicken is our proverbial bread and butter.
We keep fine-tuning our methods - we tried this Julia Childs-sourced version, which came out fantastic. We've done Beer Can Chicken a few different times - comes out nice and juicy. We've done Grilled Whole Chicken - can't go wrong. All of these are great, but when we saw the method Cook's Illustrated used for their chicken (we were suckered into a subscription) - it made perfect sense.
The key to this one - remove the backbone so the chicken lays flat, stuff herb-butter-garlic mixture under the breast skin, and sear it first before moving it to the oven. Brilliant.
So that's what we did. Cut out the backbone on either side of a small broiler chicken (4lbs or less if you can get it) and lay it down, pressing it as flat as possible. For down the road: get some butter (1/2 stick) softening, preheat your oven to 450, and put a big skillet on the stovetop.
While that gets acquainted with room temperature for a few minutes - make the herb-butter-garlic by slicing and dicing up 2 garlic cloves, then dicing some fresh herbs - we used tarragon, oregano, and flat leaf parsley... a nice handful of all those. Then dice up some scallions (green parts) real thin and pile that all up on the cutting board. Sprinkle some kosher salt over that pile and a few grinds of pepper - and dice, dice, dice it all together. You'll know you have something good when you smell the results of your knifework.
Get that wonderful mixture into a bowl and add about 4 tablespoons of softened butter - and combine all of that into a paste with a fork. After combined, remove HALF of that mixture and throw that in a small bowl and leave it in the fridge until later.
Now, back to that chicken. Loosen the skin covering the breast from the "bottom" of the chicken with your fingers, and run your finger under the skin to separate from the meat. Then, take a nice sized dab (1tbls) of that herb butter and shove it under the skin on one side, pressing it down so it is spread evenly. Repeat on the other side.
After that, give the outside of the bird a salt-and-peppering, and then breast side down into your best, biggest, pre-heated-with-olive-oil skillet for a 6-minute sear.
After that, into your preheated oven as-is for 15 minutes, then take it out and turn that chicken over. Get that reserved herb butter out of the fridge, and rub it all into the seared up-side, including into those thigh and leg slices. Get it good and coated and then back into the oven breast side up for probably 20 minutes, but check your temp (looking for breast 165, thigh/leg 175).
And that's it... crispy, seared skin, really flavorful meat - buttery and herby! We made a pan gravy (we are big into perfecting gravy right now) and had it with some mashed potatoes.