Roast chicken with root vegetables

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Entrees, Gluten Free
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I have no idea when I first roasted a whole chicken. I can tell you though that I have memories of crispy, blackened skin and meat needing a hack saw to cut through. This had nothing to do with poor culinary skill as much as poor attention to detail. I had cooked the chicken at 450 degrees for two hours when the cookbook clearly stated 350. Oops.

This dish is the best kind of one pot meal because all ingredients go into the pot raw and they all come out cooked at the same time. Other than some prep work and periodic basting, you will not have to work in the kitchen long. There are literally thousands of recipe variations for roasting a chicken. Here I offer a simple version that will show the basic technique. If you get nothing else out of this post, please pay close attention to step 4. It is the secret to even cooking and perfecting presentation without having to deal with trussing the chicken with kitchen twine.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 pound roasting chicken
  • 2 lbs butternut squash
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 large spanish onion
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then peel the butternut squash. Cut off the narrow end and set aside. Cut the wide part in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Repeat with narrow end of the squash. Put into a large dutch oven or at the bottom of a roasting pan.

2. Peel the onion and cut in half. Cut into 1 inch chunks and add to butternut squash in pot. Drizzle olive oil on top of vegetables. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Your chicken will be placed on top of the vegetables and the juices that will drip off. This will add more salt from the chicken into the squash and onion.

3. Remove the gizzards (should be in a plastic bag inside the cavity of the chicken) from the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out with water. Pat inside and out with paper towels until dry.

4. Working with the chicken, breast side up on a cutting board, cut a small slit in the skin flaps just next to the drumsticks. Insert two fingers to stretch the hole to the size of a quarter. Take the end of the drumstick and insert through the hole you just created. Repeat with the other drumstick. Then tuck each wing underneath the back of the chicken into what I call the Chicken Yoga position.

Note: I’ve pictured the process below. The purpose of this is to ensure everything cooks evenly and the wings do not burn. It also makes for a nice presentation when the chicken has finished cooking.

5. Place the chicken on top of the squash and onion mixture. Drizzle olive oil on top and rub into skin with your hands.

6. Zest 1 orange and then cut the orange into quarters.

7. Season inside chicken cavity with 1/2 tsp of salt. Rub the zest on the outside and inside of the chicken. Then, squeeze 2 of the orange quarters over the chicken . Place oranges quarters inside the cavity of the chicken. Season chicken salt, thyme, basil, and oregano. You can go heavier with the salt as it will melt into the skin and then into the meat. About 1 1/2 tsp should do. Let sit out for 20 minutes before cooking.

Note: The orange juice will not flavor the chicken, but will act as a browning agent. In the oven, the sugars will caramelize and give your chicken the beautiful brown color you see in magazines.

8. Cook chicken covered for 1 hour. Cut the second orange in half. Squeeze 1 half over chicken. Put squeezed half into pot continue cooking for another 30 minutes covered.

9. Squeeze second half of orange over chicken. Continue cooking for 15 minutes uncovered or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees in the thigh and the juices when pieced run clear.

Note: If the breast meat is already browned to the point below, cover the breast with aluminum foil to protect the meat from drying out.

10. Drain vegetables. Serve chicken on a platter accompanied by vegetables. Sit back and let your family and friends sing your praises.

Variation

For orange flavored skin, mix 2 tbsp orange marmalade with 1 tbsp dijion mustard and 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinager. Before cooking the last 15 minutes, brush this mixture onto the skin.

If you prefer squash al dente, cut the onion into thin slices instead and cover the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken on top. Add the butternut squash  around the chicken during step 8. Don’t forget to season with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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