Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Roast a Chicken in Under an Hour

I learned this technique years ago from a recipe by Stephan Pyle which was published in Fine Cooking Magazine (click for the recipe - I can highly recommend his spice combination, and the leftovers make smashing enchiladas).

Not for the squeamish, this method yields tender juicy chicken and deliciously crispy skin in an amazingly short time. A sturdy pair of kitchen scissors makes the job quick and easy.

You will need:

A 2 ½ - 3 ½ lb whole chicken, giblets and neck removed (I also cut off any large fatty pieces around the neck and rump edges)

Olive oil, about 2 - 3 tablespoons
Salt, 1 - 2 teaspoons (coarse or kosher work especially well)
Pepper, about a teaspoon
Spices if desired (suggestions: paprika, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, garam masala, coriander)
Herbs if desired, finely minced if fresh (suggestions: rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, tarragon)
Minced fresh garlic if desired, stirred into olive oil

A large shallow rimmed pan

Heat oven to 475º (yes, you read that right).

Put salt, pepper, and desired spices/herbs in a small bowl. Mix them up a bit. Have the olive oil handy in a small bowl. (Okay, I cheated and used my dispenser bottle with a paper towel wrapped around it to keep off the chicken germs. I disinfected the outside of the bottle when I was done.)

Today's chicken was seasoned with coarsely-ground salt,
pepper, paprika and minced fresh rosemary

Put the chicken in the pan, backbone up. The wings will be pointing away from you, and the legs will be down on the surface of the pan.

Cut up each side of the spine to remove the backbone. There's kind of a sweet spot where the ribs meet the spine which is the easiest place to cut. You'll have to find this by trial and error.

"The patient is prepped and ready, Doctor."

Save the backbone to make broth, if you like.

Open up the chicken and pull out any loose fatty or bloody bits, then rub interior with a little oil and sprinkle with some of the seasoning.

Turn the chicken over, and press down with the heel of your hand to break the breastbone and flatten the chicken.

Gently loosen the skin over the torso and legs. You may have to snip some connecting tissue to get under the skin.

Rub some oil directly onto the flesh (under the skin), then some seasoning. If the skin peels away, just put it back when done. Don't forget to do the legs.

Rub remaining oil and spices onto outside of skin.

Tuck the wing tips under the shoulders.

With a fork or sharp knife, pierce the skin once or twice over each side of the torso, and once on each thigh and drumstick. This will make the skin crispier.

Roast for 40 minutes or until breast meat reaches 165º and juices run clear. Remove from oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting.  (I don't tent the chicken; the skin stays crispier in the open air.)

Golden-brown, tender and delicious

The cook is encouraged to sample the crispy skin whilst carving. It's particularly good dipped in the pan juices, which make excellent gravy.

P.S. This technique is called butterflying, and works equally well with turkey. I've also done something similar when roasting peppers under the broiler. Things that are flattened and cooked at high heat cook more quickly and evenly, and in the case of poultry, retain moisture better.

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  1. Your PS is most helpful information. Something I should have known!!!

    And now, once again, you've made me very hungry. Oh, and I shared your eggplant recipe with a friend last night, and she can't wait to try it.


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