Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Easy-Peazy Lemon-Squeezy

Today, I'm going to share my go-to, super simple roast chicken recipe.  There's a few options for how to roast this, and they are all simple.  How about that awesomeness?!?

You'll need: one whole chicken, about 4 pounds (defrosted, or at least partially thawed for roasting option #3); one whole lemon; 3-5 cloves of good quality garlic; salt and pepper.

Prep your roasting option! If you opt for Roasting Option #1: The Oven, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Prep a cast iron pan large enough to hold your whole chicken in situ with a small snake of tin foil made into a rough circle. (Your happy chicken will sit on this foil ring during the cooking process.)

For Roasting Option #2: The Stand-Alone Electric Roasting Pan, do a similar prep to option #1, minus the cast iron pan.

For Roasting Option #3: The Crockpot, preheat your crockpot on high for about 15 minutes and make a foil snake, as well.  I have an oval style crockpot, large enough for a whole chicken to fit into, but if you have an older, smaller style, this option will likely not work for you. Sorry about that, but hey, maybe its time to ask for Santa to bring you a new crockpot!

While you are prepping whichever roasting method you've decided on, let's deal with our chicken.  Start by removing the wrappings around your chicken, such as a plastic bag.  I don't rinse my bird, because it splashes bacteria around the kitchen sink area, but I do pat it dry with a handy paper towel to dry the skin a bit.  Set your bird aside for a moment, and let's prep the cavity stuffers: the garlic and the lemon.

With a sharp knife, cut several slits lengthwise into your scrubbed lemon--I encourage you to find an organic lemon for this, because you are putting the whole thing inside your lovely chicken.  While we're on that track, an organic chicken and organic garlic would also be lovely, if you can find/afford them.  Moving on to the garlic, lightly smash each of your cloves to open them up.  You don't need to peel them, just smush them a little bit.  Take your garlic cloves and lemon, and put them into the chicken cavity.  Place your chicken in the cast iron pan/roaster/crockpot on top of the foil circle, and lightly salt and pepper the skin.

Now, we start cooking!  If you are doing option #1 or #2, you will roast your chicken at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  At the end of that time, you need to reduce the heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting the chicken for about two hours (really!) or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh area reads 180 degrees.  This low and slow roast makes a very tender, succulent bird with a delightful crisp, golden skin.  (Drool...)

If you are using option #3, you need to plan to roast your bird on high for one hour.  After that time, reduce the heat to low and cook for 8-10 hours.  This is my plan for during the work week, when I know I'm going to have a really long work day and having dinner mostly done when I get home is necessary to my mental survival.  I have a programmable crockpot, so I can set it to do this whole high/low cycle--it will even keep things warm for me on an ultra low temperature until I get to it...or get home.  You won't wind up with a crispy skin in the crockpot, but you will have oodles of tender, delicious and fragrantly-herbed chicken to devour.

When done roasting, remove the bird from the oven/roaster/crockpot and cover with foil.  Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes, as this keeps the juices in the meat and cools it enough for easy carving.  Remove the lemon and garlic from the cavity if you want--I actually leave them in, because I will pick the meat off the bones and put it in the fridge for later meals, and then I pop the carcass into a pot with whatever vegetable ends I've squirrelled away in the freezer and some water, and whip up a small batch of chicken broth.  The lemon and garlic really add some lovely flavor to that, I tell you!

This easy roast chicken, while time consuming, is perfect for fix-it-and-forget-it cooking on the weekend, or during the week if you opt to use your crockpot.  Anyway you cook it, it is delicious.  For sides, may I suggest a nice green salad and, perhaps, these simple parsley'd potatoes?  Yum.

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