Wrestling a chicken

When I left work yesterday I turned to John (my Dad) and said “I’m off to roast a chicken.”

John’s response: “You’re off to wrestle a chicken?”  (he does need to get his hearing aides checked.)

Honestly – that’s kind of what it felt like last night.  My main goal with this challenge was to just figure out the mechanics of roasting a chicken, and have some cooked chicken to use for salads and other meals for the rest of the week.  Which, in the most basic form, I accomplished.

I was so excited to test out my super basic Jacques Pepin recipe for roast chicken . . . and it was super basic.  So I started to get a little nervous and did some more googling about how to roast a chicken?

Apparently, everyone on the internet has different ideas about how to do things.  I was asking myself all kinds of weird questions: how place the chickens in the pan? How do I season it?  Which way to place the legs? What about the wings? Do you truss it? Splay it? Spatchcock it? What does that even mean?  Do I have to cut off the neck? Where are the giblets? Did I accidentally leave the giblets in the cavity?  How come it makes that gross sound when you move the wings and legs . . . oh that’s the bone . . . ugh.

I’ve successfully had a hand in (haha) roasting two turkeys in my life.  And while a chicken is much smaller, I assumed the theory is the same.  What I understood is you want heat, you want flavor, you want it fully cooked, and you want moisture because there is nothing exciting about dry chicken.

So I read up a lot more on prepping things here.  And followed Jacques’ instructions.  Or tried.  I pre-heated the oven, got things salted and peppered (I am not a salt person, so anyone else who eats this chicken would probably think it’s super bland).

And then went about placing things in the pan.  The instructions say:  “fold the wings akimbo to position them closer to the body.  Place the chicken on its side . . . ”

This conversation ensued:

This is how I put it in the pan.

This recipe called for a higher heat, and a short-ish cooking time.  And a 3.5 lb chicken – which I could not find.  So I followed the times in the recipe, turning the chicken over after 20 minutes, spooning the juices onto the bird.

And when the final 10 minutes was done I checked – and it wasn’t cooked.  Now my chicken was still a little frozen on the inside, so I knew it might take a little longer.  I couldn’t find much about increasing the cooking times relative to the size of the chicken (and all recipes I found called for a 3.5lb chicken . . . ).  So in increments of 10 I kept it going . . . and going . . . and going.  I noticed that when I put a knife or thermometer in the chicken I could still see some pink – that was a great indicator of doneness (or lack thereof).

Until finally.  Complete.  And probably overcooked, to be honest.

It was late, so I carved it up, set aside the carcass (and did a poor job of getting the meat off the bone) and went to bed.  The piece I tried was good, not super flavorful (which might be my light hand on the salt and pepper).

It was still pretty moist, despite the high temperature, so that was positive.

But, I’m not sure why what I did was any better than anything else.  Roasting the chicken on its side and switching it stopped the breasts from being too exposed to the heat, I suppose.  The skin was still pretty intact until I tried carving it.  But somethings looked over done, almost dried out.

I also don’t know if I’ll really add roasting a chicken into my regular repertoire.  I did not enjoy carving the chicken (it’s greasy on my hands, I’m not sure I’m carving the right parts . . . the sounds . . . the bones.).

It’s a useful skill to have, but it seems quite a bit more difficult than just buying chicken breasts and roasting those.

Next time, I’m going to go for a more interesting recipe, and try this spatchcocking thing . . . because I get to say spatchcocking and that seems fun.


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