Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Chicken (18/24)

Holy moly it's been way too long since I've updated. Sorry about that. Like most of us out there, things get busy and unfortunately, this blog had to take a back seat for a couple of weeks. With my third-to-last set of law school exams complete and after a flurry of lunches and dinners with friends and family, I've finally managed to sit down, on Christmas Eve no less, to write about a perfect little chicken by Jamie Oliver from his book, Food Revolution.

The decision to do this recipe stemmed from a recommendation from a friend, Travis, and a sincere appreciation for what Jamie Oliver is trying to accomplish with his "Food Revolution" project.

The recipe starts with a bed of onions, garlic, celery, and carrots drizzled with a heavy hand of olive oil. Jamie Oliver says to not bother peeling the onions, carrots, and garlic.

Next, prick a lemon all over with a small knife's tip (remind anyone of Marcella Hazan's recipe?) and toss it in the microwave. Microwaving the lemon had to be the most unique technique in this recipe. For unknown reasons, I was a little worried that the lemon would explode in the microwave. I'm glad to report, that was not the case. There was a small pool of hot lemon juice that gathered underneath the lemon after nuking the thing for forty seconds, but I'd say that's about as far as any explosion went. The lemon gets hot, so be careful when you take this out of the microwave.

This recipe gives the cook a choice of mixing any number of herbs. The recipe suggests any mix of thyme, rosemary, sage, or bay leaves. I did all four just to see how herbacious the chicken could get.

After drizzling the bird with olive oil and seasoning it with salt and pepper, place the lemon and herbs into the cavity and place the whole thing on top of the bed of veggies.

With the oven set at 475, in went the chicken. A little high, I thought.

But not to worry, because immediately after placing the chicken into the oven, the recipe asks that you reduce the oven to 400 and cook the bird for an hour and twenty. I imagine this has a similar effect to cooking a bird for 15 minutes at a higher temperature, like 450, and then reducing the chicken to something like 375 for the rest of the cooking time.

The recipe also utilizes some basting at the halfway mark and some splashing of water if the veggies look a little too toasty.

After the full hour and twenty minutes of roasting, the chicken looked a little bit something like this.

But don't eat the chicken just yet! Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes or so before diving in. This recipe suggests using a sheet of aluminum foil and placing a kitchen towel over the foil to weigh down the foil. I thought this was pretty clever.

The final product smelled fantastic. The unpeeled veggies added a slight touch of rustic aromas and the combination of garlic, celery, carrots, and onions was undeniably classic. Very similar to the party inside Julia Child's chicken's cavity, the vegetables were still al dente and packed a little bit of crunch, but had the pleasant and comforting doneness of a hearty batch of cooked vegetables.

The highlight for me was the dark meat. The skin surrounding the leg was particularly crispy and perfectly salty. The meat was juicy and rich, with slight hints of rosemary and thyme coming out the most in the thigh. The nuked lemon really made its way into each bite, particularly in the breast meat. The breast meat was just a tad bit over, but the lemon and herbs helped to make each bite thoroughly enjoyable.

Though I wouldn't say this is the best or most inspired chicken I've had this year, this was a fantastic reminder of the simple and comforting roots of roast chickens.

Six more posts, two more chickens to roast, and seven more days to wrap up 2011. It's going to happen. So, as my friend pointed out, I basically have to write a post every day. Rough for me, but hopefully enjoyable for you. Besides, everyone loves a suspenseful race to the finish.

If, by the way, you're still looking for something to cook tonight, why not run out to the market and get one of these in your oven? You and whoever else you might be with will be ready to eat by 8:00pm.

Until tomorrow, Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

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