Friday, 27 September 2013

Recipe: Roast Chicken

a few thoughts 
Sheila Hamilton of Sunworks Organic
Farm shows off one of her delicious,
free- range chickens.
This blog entry marks the last recipe of the market season as Wednesday saw our market come to the end of its third successful season. In preparation for winter, I thought I'd share one of our family's favourite recipes. I make this one at home about once a week or so in the cooler months, depending on what's going on with our evenings. And for our family of 4, we usually get two meals and some sandwiches or meat for salads out of it.

Roasting a chicken is one of the simplest things to do in the home kitchen. It sends a wonderful aroma
through the house. And it creates the kind of meal that brings families together, gathered around a beautiful heaping platter of delicious food. We're talking movie dinners here... you know what I mean... the ones you typically see on the silver screen where parents and kids talk and share stories about their day. The kind where people relax over a good food and with good company and really enjoy themselves. Yup, this recipe can do that.

But before I share it, I have a confession to make: I have tried this recipe with both a Costco roasting chicken (sorry!) and a Sunworks Organic Farm chicken. Though the price was far greater with the farmers' market chicken, the taste and texture were out of this world and far, far better than the Costco chicken. I also found that when roasting the costco chicken, my roasting pan was filled with a good inch of liquid at the end of the roasting process, and the bird had shrunk noticeably in size. Not so with the organic Sunworks chicken. So though the price was 2-3 times more for the organic farmers' market chicken, the end result was a bird that was far more tender, tasty and flavourful and that lasted  two to two and a half meals for a family of four, rather than a single meal with the less flavour-filled Costco chicken. So getting my roasting bird at Costco was most certainly not the deal I thought it would be.
One other thing to note: what you might not know is that Sunworks sells a case of ten chickens at a considerable discount. If you have the freezer space to hold 10 birds, this deal is well worth the trip to the market. You just have to order them a week ahead of time, using their online site, and come early to get them before the crowds line up at their booths for their regular purchases. A small price of inconvenience to pay for a tremendous deal, I think. During the winter, I pick them up at the Old Strathcona Market before 8am, but between May and October, they can be purchased and picked up at our Southwest Edmonton Market.

balsamic roast chicken
Using balsamic vinegar on the outside of the chicken gives a wonderful colour to the roasted bird once
it comes out of the oven and it does something incredible to the flavour of the potatoes that are cooking in its juices. And rubbing the spices between the chicken skin infuses the meat with far more flavour... and for health reasons, you really should avoid the fat in chicken skin and use it simply to give chicken flavour while roating (and to prevent it from drying out), and then to add flavour to any chicken stock you might make later on, should you chose to do that from the left over carcass.

And one more word of caution: please, please, please be very careful with your hand washing when preparing a raw chicken carcass. Every time you touch the raw bird, wash your hands before touching anything else like a bowl or a utensil. Then once the bird is in the oven, carefully wash down all kitchen surfaces that might have come in contact with the bird or its juices. Then throw the towel in the laundry that you used to dry your hands. And do NOT prepare the bird on a wooden cutting board surface.

1- 5 to 6 lb. whole chicken
1 & 1/4 t. sea salt, divided
1½ t. dried thyme, divided
1½ t. dried rosemary, divided
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 t. olive oil, divided
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1½ lbs. baby red or fingerling potatoes, halved (whole if fairly small)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a roasting pan with foil.

Wash the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels, being sure to rinse out the cavity. Set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, (or directly on foil if you have no rack), breast facing up. Loosen the skin covering the breasts by putting your fingers between the skin and the meat, gently pulling up to create an air pocket between them. This is the space into which you will rub a spice mixture.

In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon each of salt, thyme & rosemary plus several grinds of black pepper. Rub half the oil over the chicken. Rub half the spice mixture directly onto the meat, underneath the skin that you have lifted. Rub the remaining spice mixture over the outside of the skin and inside the cavity. Drizzle vinegar all over the chicken & rub to coat evenly.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the potatoes with the remaining two teaspoons of oil, 1/4 t. salt and a half teaspoon each of thyme & rosemary. Season with pepper. Spread potatoes around the chicken in the roasting pan. Place the pan in the centre of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Open the oven and loosely cover the chicken with foil to prevent over browning. Cook for 45 minutes more, until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature of the breast meat is 160F (thigh meat should reach 170F).

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Transfer chicken to a cutting boards & let rest for 10 minutes (the temperature of the breast meat will rise to 165F). Carve the chicken into slices & save the skin & bones for making soup stock. Serve with potatoes.

Recipe from Clean Eating, p. 16
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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