Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Roast Chicken (4/24)

Meet chicken number four. Unassuming in this picture, but this is probably the most involved bird recipe I've done to date.

I've never watched Tyler Florence's show on the Food Network, but the recipe was enough to convince me to get to know him. Tyler Florence's Ultimate Roast Chicken is a serious study in subtlety of flavor. While the flavors might seem obvious to a person who saw the preparation of the chicken, a person who only met the chicken in its Sunday's best would never guess how many articles of flavor this chicken was wearing.

As if calling on all the skills I used with the previous three chickens, this recipe called for smearing butter, tucking ingredients under the skin, and stuffing the cavity to capacity.

First up was the butter. Because plain old butter isn't enough for Tyler Florence, the recipe asks the reader to aggressively mince up a good amount of parsley, oregano, and thyme. A trick I learned from Jamie Oliver is to mince all the herbs at the same time rather than mince and measure them individually to ensure that all the herbs blend with each other sufficiently and evenly. It's a simple suggestion, really, but a great one. Also, I'm a huge fan of Tillamook butter. So creamy and so delicious.

After mixing in the herbs, the butter was incredibly fragrant. I was tempted to just eat the butter on its own, but I restrained myself...after taking a couple bites.

Getting this butter on this chicken was actually a little difficult, mainly because chunks of herb butter kept falling off. After the butter and chicken got to room temperature, however, it got easier and easier to keep the butter on. A tip for this part: butter the back side of the chicken first, then season it with salt and pepper, then flip the bird over, butter the breast side, and season that side with salt and pepper. I tried to butter the whole bird and then tried to season the whole bird and the whole thing got a bit messy and uneven. I have to say though, spreading butter throughout the underside of the chicken skin was a pretty satisfying feeling.

Next came the contents of the cavity. I don't know how Tyler Florence thought to pack the bird with so many huge halves of ingredients, but I'm assuming an actual 5.5 lbs chicken would have the cavity for what his recipe calls for. My chicken was only 4.5 lbs, so I had to sacrifice one onion half, which was find by me, because that meant more roasted onions in the pan. I also chose to use a blood orange rather than a regular orange because I wanted to make sure that the flavor of oranges came through, and blood oranges are generally known for their stronger and more intense orange flavor. Also, blood oranges just look cooler.

My favorite part was robing the chicken with smoked bacon strips. I think it's well-established that I enjoy bacon. I had no idea how this bacon would affect the chicken in the end, but I was definitely excited. The recipe doesn't really call for the reader to do anything with the bacon afterwards, so I rinsed the herbs off the bacon and used them to make a batch of Rick Bayless' Bacon-and-Tomato Guacamole.

No words. I mean really, this bacon blanket is just awesome. I had never heard of this technique before, but apparently my friend's mother or grandmother dresses her chicken in bacon as well.

The end product was great. The chicken glistened with butter and crisp, and the over-stuffed cavity made the bird look like it was about to explode. The meat was ridiculously juicy and tender. If you got a clump of herbs, the herbs hit you hard, but weren't so overpowering that you couldn't taste the chicken. The skin was just as crispy as it looked and had brief moments of bacon. The meat closer to the cavity had a light, orange aftertaste. The garlic wasn't very strong, and neither was the onion, but the onions roasted in the pan drippings made sure you weren't missing them. The perfect bite included all of these elements and created a ridiculous flavor bob-omb. Each bite conducted a a long series of flavors that unraveled one after the other. Not the healthiest or lightest chicken, but ultimately, it was pretty darn delicious.

I didn't have the time to pursue the roux, and I was hoping to utilize some guar gum, but in the end, I think I enjoyed the chance to enjoy the chicken in its own right. I'm pretty positive I'll be making this chicken again at some point, and when I do, I'll do the roux.

Would I call this the ultimate roast chicken? Not just yet, but I guess we'll see at the end of this year.

Props to Matt, Dan, Cait, Ryan, and Rachel for making sure I had no leftovers, and special props to Dan for cutting up the chicken like Robocop.


  1. That looks delicious. Can't wait for you to come home!


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