This chicken is a staple in my family. Not just the dish itself but even the bits and pieces that most people wouldn’t even consider to be part of a meal. Part of it is definitely cultural, coming to the US as political refugees from a region of the world where even without geopolitical strife meat is considered a luxury and the concept of “planned obsolescence” is anathema. When resources are limited, eking out as much use as possible from what little you have is a given and expands the truism that not only can necessity breed ingenuity but also a new standard. This chicken for many would be a single dish but in the hands of my mother was not only an entrée but also the basis for a salad dressing (Mmm, plain ol’ lettuce never tasted so good drizzled with unhealthy pan drippings and Maggi!), pan-seared seasoned gizzards as an appetizer or snack (a total no go with the hubster :(), as well as a jumping off point for neo-leftovers. While the hubby loves succulent roasted chicken with fresh crispety skin the first night, he’s already anticipating the bounty of leftovers. Grilled panini chicken with tomato jam, pickled eggplant, and arugula for lunch? Ding! Chicken and kale rice pilaf? Yes, please! But the one that has him wriggling in his seat at the dining table in anticipation? That would be matzo ball soup made with the ever so flavorful chicken carcass. And if we’ve got a flurry of commitments and I can’t make XX right away? Not to worry, just pop everything into a gallon-sized zip bag for a little respite in the freezer only to be reborn phoenix-like as a soup, a casserole, … your imagination’s the limit 🙂 This chicken is pretty versatile, pairing well with just about any veggie or starch combo you want to throw at it. Just in case you’re curious, we had it with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots plus some seasoning-salt rosemary roasted purple potatoes from our garden and sweet potato on the side.
Don’t worry, the first tip’s free: 😉
1) How can you tell when the chicken is done? There are a few different schools of thought on this. Some people like to pierce the thigh and if the juices run clear then it’s done. Why the thigh? Because of the thick thigh bone, it takes the longest to cook of all the parts. Besides poking holes in your lovely chicken, sometimes it’s hard to tell the color of the fluid especially with browned skin on the outside. You can also use a meat thermometer which is always a good thing but once again, that puts another big hole in your chicken but is much more accurate in terms of measuring doneness. Finally, there’s the ever so precise jiggle method. As the chicken cooks, the ligaments that hold the leg in the hip socket soften as well so that the hip joint loosens allowing it to jiggle easily. If you’re unsure I would definitely go with the meat thermometer and poke the thigh which according to the USDA should be ~165F (just don’t poke through so you’re touching bone as the bone will be much hotter than the meat making you overestimate doneness).
2) I want really crispy skin, should I rub the chicken with butter or oil first? While a few different recipes include this step, I’ve made this with and without a butter rub and truthfully, it wasn’t significantly crispier with the added cholesterol and calories. The skin is plenty crispety with upright roasting cuz let’s face it, little “Camilla” here has plenty o’ fat in her skin already and by roasting at 375F, it’s just the right temperature to not only cook the inside but also brown the outside.
3) Don’t have a fancy upright roaster? No prob, neither did my Mom. Just sit the chicken cavity over an empty soda can. To keep the weight of the chicken from making it fall over, fill the can with water to 2/3 full before sleeving the chicken over it. Just be careful when you pull the chicken off not to knock hot, oily water all over. I find it helps to have the sous chef/hubby use a fork or butter knife to push down on the can/roaster that’s exposed through the “neck” of the chicken while I’m lifting the chicken up (I don’t trust myself to just snip it off the roaster without dumping everything into the fat that’s accumulated at the bottom of the roasting pan).
1 whole roasting chicken (~6-7lb)
2 tsp sea salt or 1 tsp regular salt
3/4-1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375F. Set aside a roasting pan or at least 10 inch by 7 inch baking pan and a vertical chicken roaster or an empty soda can.
In a small bowl mix together salt, pepper and brown sugar. Sometimes I’ll add a teaspoon of dried rosemary just to change things up too.
Remove gizzards and large fat flaps from chicken cavity and just under the skin covering the breasts and discard (You can also freeze the gizzards for another use when the hubby’s out of town :)). Rub salt mixture inside cavity, over skin, and between the skin and breasts (where you removed the fat flaps). Place chicken on upright roaster inside roasting pan. If using an empty soda can, fill can 2/3 full with tap water and stand chicken up on the can by lowering the chicken cavity over the can. Bake chicken till skin is golden brown and the thigh wiggles easily with light pressure (I use a fork to jiggle the leg left to right) or a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165F. If the leg is still a bit stiff/it’s not quite 165F but the skin is getting dark, cover the top half of the chicken with foil and continue baking (at 375F with this size chicken I’ve never had to use foil). With a ~7lb chicken and convection heat it takes me ~55 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
While you can carve up the chicken using a knife, I find the best way to preserve that crispy skin is to cut it in half from neck to tail using kitchen shears. Then you can lay it down like you’re resting a book face down with the skin facing up and then just snip it apart with the scissors. One dinner down, 2 more reinventions to go!