Friday, December 23, 2011

Guide to the perfect chicken roast

There are more ways than one to plate up grandma's roasted succulent chicken recipe. With Christmas around the corner, choose the one that's easiest for you. A few options...

Unlike how magnificent a well-roasted and garnished chicken looks on a dinner table, in reality, cooking the dish is not as tedious and fussy. With the right ingredients, roasting-gear and a few seasoning tricks, you too can easily whip up a brilliant roast chicken for your family get-togethers! We guide you on how to make your chicken taste delicious.

How to roast your chicken
Pick the right chicken: While choosing chicken, Executive Chef Suresh Thampy suggests, "For roast chicken, always buy a chicken with its skin on. So that while roasting it, the skin helps in retaining moisture and gives it a golden brown texture." After you have removed the chicken from its packaging, remove the giblets (i.e. the organs like heart, liver, etc.,) from the body cavity.

Clean it thoroughly: To clean the chicken, hold it under cold running tap water and rinse it. Pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Cleaning the chicken will ensure that you kill most of the bacteria.

Seasoning: "Marinate your chicken before putting it to roast. Rub it with herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cut aromatic vegetables like carrots, turnips, celery, onions and potatoes and place it under the chicken in your roast pan, so that they will cook in the juice of the meat," says Thampy. Executive Chef Rejeev Basak suggests another way, "Grease the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird as well as inside the cavity for additional flavour. Prick a lemon with a fork and place it inside the cavity along with a bunch of herbs. You can also fill the cavity with orange or lemon wedges."

If you find that the chicken is browning too quickly during roasting, cover it with aluminum foil until it is done. It will also keep the meat from drying out. Another option is drizzling it with white wine. Once you have roasted the chicken for the correct amount of time, remove it from the oven.

Resting the roast: As soon as your chicken is out of the oven, don't get tempted to cut it. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute into the meat, making it moist and tender. The juices from the roasting tray can also be used to make a delicious gravy.

The different ways of roasting at home
Like there are countless ways to season a roast chicken, there is more than one way to roast it too. While the end result of all these methods is spectacular, you need to choose one that is better suited to your style.

Quick-roasting method
Traditionally, roasting chickens came from older, tougher birds, and the only way to get them to be tender and juicy was to cook them at a low temperature for a long time. That's not so much the case nowadays, so if you don't have a lot of time, a quick way to cook the chicken is to quick roast it. The main reason this technique is used is to brown the outside of the chicken, similar to browning food in a pan before pot roasting or stewing it. Also, quick roasting gives more variety of flavour, because the outside is brown while the center is much less done.

Preheat your oven to 450 F. Place the chicken in the oven. Roast it for about 45 minutes, or until your meat thermometer tells you the chicken is cooked. The best thing to do for this method is to add a little butter inside and out to baste it.

Slow-roasting method
This method for roasting chicken takes a long time. But according to Rejeev, "The slow roasting of chicken is a much preferred way, as the chicken is cooked completely and stays more juicier that quick roasting. It's especially good if you're using a chicken that's a bit older and tougher. The result is great when roasting with whole chickens."

Preheat your oven to 275 F. Roast the chicken for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until your meat thermometer tells you the chicken is cooked. Roasting chicken at such a low temperature means that the white and dark meat will cook much more evenly, so you won't end up with dry breast meat. The low cooking temperature will keep the skin from getting brown and crisp. Also, because the cooking temperature is so low, there won't be as much evaporation as the other method. More of the collagen that makes meat tough is dissolved in slow cooking. This technique also gives you an incredibly juicy and tender chicken, though the taste is a bit less intense.

Roasting at 350 F
Roasting a chicken at 350 F takes a bit more time than the quick-roasting method. The chicken generally ends up a lot more tender though because the tough fibers like collagen have more time to melt.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place the chicken in the oven. Roast it for about 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 20 minutes till it is cooked. This technique cooks chicken at a fairly high heat for a longer period of time. The goal is to get it nice and tender, but you also have to be sure it doesn't dry out or burn. Baste the chicken with water, or wine every half hour or so. You can also place butter under the skin or inside the cavity. Remember to roast the chicken breast side down for the first two thirds of the cooking time.

Stuffed Roast Chicken

Indian Style
Ingredients:1 whole chicken, roughly 1.5 kg

For the marinade:
- 2 tbsps yogurt
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- 3 tsp ginger& garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp salt.

For the filling:
- 3 tbsps oil
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 3 tsps ginger& garlic paste
- 1 tbsps coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 300 gms minced lamb meat
- Salt to taste
- 2 finely chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped potatoes
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped coriander

- Put all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix well.
- Put the whole chicken into this marinade and coat it well. Cover the dish with cling wrap and keep aside for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.
- While the chicken marinates, you can prepare the filling.
- Heat 3 tbsps of cooking oil in a wok or deep pan, on medium heat.
- Add the cumin seeds and fry for a minute. Add the onions now. Fry till they turn a golden color.
- Add the ginger& garlic paste and fry for a minute.
- Add the minced meat and all the powdered spices - coriander, cumin, garam masala and salt.
- Continue to brown the minced meat, stirring often to prevent burning. This should take about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, peas and potatoes, stir and cook.
- Once you turn the fire off, add the lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and fill the stomach cavity with the minced meat stuffing.
- Try and get all the stuffing in if possible. Place it on a roasting dish and drizzle all over with oil.
- Roast the chicken, uncovered for 75 minutes. You can serve it with parathas