Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Roasting Organic Chicken

This is my general method for a basic roast chicken. This year, I got my organic chicken order cut in half - I don't mean I got half as many chickens; I mean the butcher took my frozen chickens and ran them through a saw. From the cooks' point of view this is a fairly disconcerting technique, but I am adapting to it. I asked for this because otherwise, in a 2 person household, the thawing of a large chicken means 4 or quite possibly 5 chicken meals in a week. I like chicken, BUT! This way, we're looking at 2 meals and some broth, which I may or may not use at once. We can do that.

I should add that these delicious organic half-chickens came from Meeting Place Organic Farm.

2 to 8 servings, depending on sizes of chicken and appetites
1 to 2 hours, again, depending on size of chicken

Roasted Organic Chicken1/2 to 1 large organic chicken
the juice of 1/2 to 1 large lemon

The most common way to get an organic chicken seems to be frozen. Allow at least a day and a half for a half-chicken to thaw, and 2 or 3 days for a whole chicken. Frozen meat is always best thawed out fairly slowly. It should hold in the fridge for up to another day, in case plans change. My butcher puts the giblets (gizzards? innards, anyhow) in with the chicken which is somewhat annoying. However, I have found they can be removed while both the chicken and giblets are still fairly frozen. I return them to a communal tub in the freezer, and when I have collected the full set I will try to think of something to do with them.

When the chicken is thawed, take it out of the fridge about half an hour before it is expected to go into the oven, so that it can lose some chill.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Check around the cavities and remove excess fat - it's much easier now than trying to skim it from the gravy later. Salt the chicken inside and you can put some under the skin as well if it seems convenient. Some people rub the chicken with butter but I have never found this necessary - a good organic chicken has a sturdy, rich skin. Put the chicken in the roasting pan - if you have a whole chicken, it will do better on a low rack - and baste it with the lemon juice. Season the outside of the chicken generously with salt and paprika. You can use sweet or hot paprika, smoked or not. Just use a good one. The pan should not be much larger than the chicken, or the juices will have too much surface from which to evaporate.

Some people put the lemon rind inside the chicken, but I think this is a mistake. It leaves a slight but definite bitter flavour in the pan juices. However, you can certainly use herbs such as garlic, rosemary, savory or sage. Don't put in too much - a small sprig or a few leaves are plenty.

Roast the chicken for 15 to 25 minutes at 450°F. Then turn down the oven to 375°F for the rest of the cooking time. As a rule of thumb, allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound, but don't expect to be able to pull your chicken out of the oven on the minute, especially if it is a smaller one.

Check for doneness - the wiggle test is a good one (when the chicken leg feels loose when wiggled.) If you poke it with a fork, the juices that ooze out should be clear. If in doubt, give it a little longer. Undercooked chicken isn't good. Note, however, that an organic chicken will never be as loose and wiggly as a factory farmed one. They are just bigger, sturdier, stronger beasts altogether.

Once cooked, the chicken should rest for 10 minutes before being carved, to allow the juices to redistribute themselves through the chicken. You can use the pan juices to make a gravy while you wait if you like, although I tend to save them for the soup when I am cooking a chicken for just the 2 of us.

When you have consumed your chicken down to the bones, put the bones - and skin, if you haven't eaten it - in a pot and cover them with filtered water. You can throw in a piece of onion, celery and carrot if you like, as well as a bay leaf. Cover and simmer gently for 2 to 4 hours. Strain, and discard the solids. The resulting chicken broth can be frozen, or used at once for soup. If you have leftover pieces of chicken you want for the soup, do not simmer them - they will turn to sawdust. Add them to the soup later.

1 comment:

Rachel and Scott's family said...

This was a great dish! The lemon really added flavor! Good use of our lemon tree.