I pride myself as being a fairly intelligent person and very adept at cooking (duh, I’m doing a cooking blog after all). Heck, I have an Associate’s Degree in Hospitality and most recently my Bachelors in Business Management. I’ve been cooking since I was seven years old (I won’t tell you my age now), owned my own personal chef business and was a manager for of one those dinner prep stores. So one would think I could cook a roast chicken with my eyes closed right? Wrong.
It should be simple. Buy a chicken, season it, preheat the oven, and put the bird in the oven. There, roast chicken. For some reason, the whole roast chicken thing eludes me. I watch all the cooking shows and they make it seem so easy to prepare this once peasant dish. A sprinkle of seasoning here, stuff the bird with this or that, smear butter over and under, put it in this or that pan, heat the oven on this temperature and cook until the juices run clear. Juices run clear? So how long would that actually be? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? 2 hours? Do all birds cook at the same temp for the same amount of time or should I use that little timer thingy stuck in the breast of the bird. I can’t imagine there is a “one size fits all” direction regarding cooking temperature and time for roast chicken. I am a firm believer that there should be concise directions in a recipe regarding this, but there isn’t and there can’t be
So how did we get to this discussion? Well, my standing freezer had been full of food and I decided to use everything up before I replenish my supply again. At this point the meat that is left in the freezer is down to large cuts for roasting. The other day I looked in the freezer and low and behold what do my wondering eyes find? An Oven Stuffer roaster chicken. Ok, take a deep breath. “You can do this”, I told myself.
I figured I would find a great recipe for this bird in order to finally face my Roast Chicken fears. So onto the internet I go, swim through the mountain of cookbooks I own to find the perfect recipe. Let’s face it, there is an infinite supply of Roast Chicken recipes out there and each one is very different from the next.
Finally, I happen upon two recipes that I think will be perfect. The first one is from the famous late Judy Rodgers Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and the other is from Pioneer Woman Roast chicken herself, Ree Drummond (if you can’t tell I’m a huge fan). I peruse both recipes and decide I can combine both using the dry brine and cast iron skillet cooking method idea from Judy’s recipe and Ree’s smear of rosemary and lemon butter all over the bird, along with my own idea to stuff the cavity with a head of garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme the skeletons of the lemons. Looks beautiful, wish I took a picture.
Followed the cooking directions from Judy’s recipe; 500º for 30 minutes breast up then another 15 minutes breast down. I look in the oven and see the bird, it’s wonderfully golden brown and I hear the sizzle of the juices in the pan, then I prick the bird to see what the juices look like. Gosh, those juices look clear to me. Great, take out the bird to rest, cut the leg away from the body and then (que menacing music), are you kidding?! IT’S PINK! And I’m not just talking a light hazy pink, it’s the shocking pink that would stand up to any little girls fantasy about unicorns. Now what? Back in the oven it goes covered with aluminum foil for a guestimate of 45 minutes. All with a hope and prayer that it doesn’t dry out like a Grizzwald turkey. I finally figured out my biggest problem with roasting a chicken is impatience. I see how beautiful it looks and think it’s definitely cooked. You can’t judge a book oh excuse me, a chicken by its cover (skin).
Further research about my chicken shows, my chicken was twice the size of the recipes chosen and I should have measured the cooking time based on the weight of the bird, which was mistake #1. Not using a thermometer, mistake #2. And finally, mistake #3; Not being patient enough to know that if the skin is too brown, cover it and let the chicken enjoy its warm sauna in the oven. What rookie moves! No professional cook would ever make these mistakes, but I sure did. Shame on me!
In the end, even though my chicken actually did take another 45 minutes longer to cook than expected, my daughter and husband loved it (shocker) and asked for it again. They are going to have to wait, I think I’m going to have to get over the trauma of this one first before I try again.