A Sunday Roast

Hi Everyone!

Surprise! It’s not Cass! It’s someone entirely different.

Cass invited me to make a guest post, and I eagerly agreed to jump face first into the blog with a topic / recipe /post that has been on my mind for a long time. Now everyone is familiar with the store-bought, over-cooked, meat-is-dry-like-cardboard, rotisserie chicken. The kind that is put into the rotisserie to die a slow death by being made to turn circles in Satan’s cigar room. What I’m trying to say here is – dry, salty, overcooked roast chicken. I have a personal vendetta against people who have decided that chicken should be made  this way.

Anyway, over the years, I’ve scoured the internet, cook-books, picked the minds of other like-minded home-cooks to find out the best way to make a roast chicken. Mind you, the myriad responses are mind boggling. I shan’t bore you with more diatribe, I’ve taken the liberty (for your esteemed benefit) to narrow it down to TWO preparation methods and one KEY step. Both methods have thus far made mouth-watering, succulent chicken that, by my count, over 30 people have not gone,  “what madness is this?!! give me a grocery store roast chicken!!!

Method 1: Dry Rub 

This is great, especially when you don’t have the time needed to let the chicken contemplate its fate,  like in method 2… (We’ll revisit the dry rub method another time)

Method 2: Brine

brine/brīn/

Noun:
Water saturated or strongly impregnated with salt.

I guess there’s not much information in that. Without getting too technical:

  1. Make a brine solution
  2. Put bird in solution for x hours
  3. Take bird out
  4. Put bird in oven

Why does soaking a chicken in a brine solution make for moist, tender chicken?

  • Brining chicken not only adds moisture to the chicken, making it nice and plump, it also helps prevent it from drying out when you cook it. The result is a delicious, moist and juicy chicken.
  • Brining not only affects the texture and juiciness of your chicken, it also affects the taste. A few hours in a brine will let salt penetrate deep into the chicken meat, enhancing its natural flavor.extracted from http://www.enjoy-how-to-cook.com/brining-chicken.html#what-brining-does

So, here’s how I did this:

Brine Solution – Adapted from various sources on the internet

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of kosher salt (if you use normal table salt, reduce quantity by half)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • about 16 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 red onion (diced)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • Fresh herbs (I used basil)
  • Dry spices (I used cloves, cinnamon, star anise)
  • 1/4 cup of dark soya sauce
  • 1/4 cup of light soya sauce

Preparation:

In a large stew pot, bring the water to a light boil on high heat. Add salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, spices and herbs. Stir until all the sugar and salt has dissolved. Quarter and squeeze the lemons into the mix (I threw in the lemons into the pot too). Add the onions. Allow the whole solution to steep for at least 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Here, the brine should start looking like a nice soup and you should be able to smell the herbs and spices. Mmm.

To speed up the cooling process, add cold water / ice. At this point, the brine should taste slightly salty, if it’s too mild, stir in some extra salt :) (or more water if it’s too salty)

Method:

Earlier in the day, I had purchased a 2 KG bird from the grocery store and left it to sit at room temperature. Prepare the bird in the usual way (remove the gizzards, neck, feet & bishop’s nose) and pat dry the bird with kitchen towels.

Once the brine solution has cooled to room temperature, take a fork and start stabbing the bird all over! Make sure you prick through the skin. This will allow the brine to get into places where the sun don’t shine. Place the bird and the brine solution in a large plastic or stainless steel container, that’s big enough to hold everything and keep the bird submerged (I used a plate to weigh the bird down). The bird MUST be totally submerged else some parts won’t be brined! Keep the bird and solution in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, up to 12 hours. I had mine brining for 4, although another 2 hours wouldn’t have hurt.

Remove the bird from the brine, pat dry with kitchen towels and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Let the bird rest at room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes before cooking.

Roast Chicken Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 brined chicken
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2 medium red pepper
  • 1/2 medium green pepper
  • 4 carrots
  • 12 button mushrooms
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Olive oil / Sesame oil

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 240C. Chop/slice the vegetables to your desired size. Break the garlic bulb into pieces, leaving the skin on. Remember the lemon from the brine? Take it and stuff it into the chicken along with some of the garlic.

In a roasting pan, lay out the vegetables and drizzle with olive oil / sesame oil (makes for a pretty good salad at this point. lol).  Rub some sea salt, & pepper all over and more on the exposed parts of the bird.

Method:

Place the bird breast side up on the bed of vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the pre-heated oven. turn the heat down immediately to 200C and cook the bird for at least 30 minutes. This will brown the skin on the breasts. After 30 minutes flip the bird over and let it cook for at least another 40-60 minutes.

You should baste the bird every 20-30 minutes. If the vegetables look dry, add a splash of water (I used chicken stock which I made the day before. Might cover this in a future post!)  to the tray to stop them from burning.  I used a cooking temperature gauge (a.k.a meat thermometer) to let me know when the inner core temperature had hit 81C (the thermometer said to wait till 82C) but I am such a rebel. Take the tray out of the oven, transfer the chicken to a board and cover with aluminum foil to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Carve and Serve!

The Verdict

The herbs and spices made for a wonderfully fragrant bird and thanks to the brine, the bird was so tender and moist, I could tear the meat off the bone :) Didn’t need to knife the bird at all!

So… earlier I mentioned 2 methods of preparation, one in brief, one we’ve discussed in detail. So what is the KEY step to a moist & tender chicken?

“… rest for at least 15 minutes… “

This resting time let’s the inner temperature of the bird cool down and start to re-absorb all the juices that the heat/ steam have forced out. A little patience goes a long way.

=D

Cass: Thanks for letting me play in your playground!

Till the next time (if there is one…), grab your forks!

-Stephen

p.s. I also made chicken rice with the leftover chicken stock & loads of garlic and ginger!

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