Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An unconventional way to roast a chicken

The very first time I tried to roast a chicken, I ended up serving my pour, unsuspecting in-laws some grossly underdone meat. This is why I always say that family make the best guinea pigs - because they still have to love you, even if you serve them something terrible. :D Part of what I didn't understand was that a "roaster" chicken (2 kg and up) is not ideal for quick cooking methods the way that "broiler/fryer"s are (~1.5 kg). I had been attempting to spatchcock the chicken (an old fashioned term that means to flatten the chicken by removing the spine and breast bone) in order to reduce the cooking time. I eventually did get it right (after moving to the smaller bird size) but the skin wasn't quite right. Depending on the oven, you'll get overdone spots, even if you finish the chicken under the broiler.

Last weekend, I serendipitously watched a rerun of Chef at Home where he cooked the chicken in a cast-iron skillet, using regular mortar bricks to press it evenly into the pan and ensure maximum contact. I had originally passed this off since, at the time, I didn't own a cast-iron skillet large enough. I now, however, am the proud owner of a beautiful 12" Lodge Cookware skillet (bought for a song while down in Las Vegas) and this cooking method was open to me. To solidify the idea that I should try this out, America's Test Kitchen showed an episode, around the same time, where they used bricks in the same method to get beautiful skin on the BBQ (so even if you don't have the 12" skillet, this technique is still an option for you).

The resulting chicken had gorgeous skin. It was perfectly done and I didn't have to fiddle with anything. To add to the "pros" of this cooking method, the whole chicken was done in about a half an hour and came with an almost-ready-made gravy/sauce. What's not to love?

Pollo al Mattoni (aka Brick Chicken)
(Download PDF)

Ingredient List
whole chicken (~ 1.5 kg)
olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
onion (1 medium) (for pan sauce)
white wine (½ cup) (for pan sauce)
heavy (35%) cream (½ cup) (for pan sauce)
white vinegar (for pan sauce)

Hardware List
kitchen shears
10” cast-iron skillet
bricks (2)
aluminum foil
probe thermometer (if available)

Wrap 2 regular-sized bricks with aluminum foil and set aside.

Flatten one 1.5 kg whole chicken by removing the spine using a sharp pair of kitchen shears. Open the bird like a book and remove the keel (aka breast) bone by cutting down the sides of the cartilage and removing it with fingers.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a 10” cast-iron skillet over high heat. While the skillet and oil are heating, coat the bird on all sides with more olive oil and liberally salt and pepper.

Once the oil just begins to smoke, place the chicken, skin side down, in the skillet and top with the two foil-wrapped bricks. Immediately reduce the heat to low. The goal is to maintain the sizzling sound without producing any smoke.

Slowly brown the chicken for approximately 20 minutes, careful not to burn the skin.

Preheat the oven to 450F. If making a pan sauce, finely dice 1 medium onion at this time.

When the chicken is golden brown, remove the bricks and flip the chicken. Insert the probe thermometer into the center of the breast meat, if available, and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.

Cook until the thermometer measures 160F. Remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil to rest for at least 5 minutes.

To make a pan sauce:

Remove any excess oil from the skillet. Brown the diced onions over medium-high heat, being sure to scrape up any fond from the bottom of the pan.

Add ½ cup white wine and any juices from the resting chicken, then increase the heat to high.

Reduce the liquid by approximately a half before adding ½ cup heavy cream. Reduce again until thickened.

Finish with ½ tsp white vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken in quarters (breast & wing, leg & thigh), topped with pan sauce.

Nutrition (per ¼ chicken, breast with skin, no sauce)
Calories 300
Total fat 11 g
Saturated fat 4 g
Cholesterol 200 mg
Sodium 490 mg
Carbohydrate 3 g
Dietary fibre 3 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 47 g
Vitamin A 4 %DV
Vitamin C 0 %DV
Calcium 1 %DV
Iron 8 %DV

Nutrition (per ¼ chicken, leg with skin, no sauce)
Calories 314
Total fat 19 g
Saturated fat 6 g
Cholesterol 233 mg
Sodium 432 mg
Carbohydrate 1 g
Dietary fibre 2 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 35 g
Vitamin A 3 %DV
Vitamin C 0 %DV
Calcium 3 %DV
Iron 11 %DV

Nutrition (per 2 tbsp sauce)
Calories 51
Total fat 4 g
Saturated fat 2 g
Cholesterol 14 mg
Sodium 199 mg
Carbohydrate 1 g
Dietary fibre 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin A 3 %DV
Vitamin C 0 %DV
Calcium 1 %DV
Iron 0 %DV

Original Source: Chef at Home - Brick Chicken with Sherry Pan Gravy

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