Bachelor cooking – Roast chicken.

As I discussed on this week’s podcast episode, Sunday on the blog will now be dedicated to cooking for bachelors. This was prompted by Aaron Clarey asking me if I had any easy and quick recipes as he wants to start cooking more at home.

Cooking has been an interest of mine since I was a boy. I love to eat good food, and the best way to guarantee a supply of excellent food is to become a good cook yourself. Cooking is work, but like everything worth doing it becomes easier and more satisfying the more that you do it. I remember back in early 2001 I was spending a period in Australia between rafting seasons in Italy. I invited my father and brother around for lunch. I can’t remember exactly what I cooked but I know that there was a soup and some sort of pork dish. The soup came off well, but the pork was overcooked. Back then I still hadn’t grasped the intricacies and subtleties of cooking meat and fish, nor had I completely escaped from my mother’s habit of always cooking meat for an hour so as to “kill the germs”. Some things stay with you a long time when they are part of your formative years.

My father and brother were enthusiastic about the soup that I prepared that day; much less joy, however was shown for the main. Back then I still had a long way to go with my cooking skills and experience. Now the situation is somewhat different. I am well known amongst my family and my wife’s family as being a cook of some considerable skill. All the hard work to learn how to cook has paid off in other unexpected ways. I not only get pleasure from enjoying the dishes that I prepare; I also see the pleasure on the faces of my friends and family and that itself is another kind of reward entirely.

With meat being such a challenging task for any novice cook, the first recipe in my bachelor cooking series will be on that theme. Not to start you off with great difficulty, but rather to give you some confidence with a meat dish that is rather straightforward, versatile, and tasty – roast chicken.

Over the years I’ve tried many different versions of this classic dish, but my favorite has to be the one from Jean-Pierre Moulle’s marvelous cookbook, French Roots. I like its simplicity and the richness the butter gives to the bird, as well as the abundance of flavor from the tightly packed herbs. For beginner cooks, always follow the recipe exactly. You can only break or bend the rules when you know and understand the rules. The strictest adherence to the recipe will save you much pain and ruined meals when you are just starting out.

With Italian cooking and to a lesser extent French cooking, there is nowhere to hide. Simple meals mean no margin for error. Thus you should always try to source the freshest ingredients possible. However, when you are just starting out it would be unwise to purchase a very expensive chicken in case you miscalculate or your attention wanders. A good entry level organic bird will do the trick. However, the best butter, vegetables, and herbs should be your focus as these do not cost much more than cheap rubbish. Of course, the best option for herbs would be to grow your own.

Ingredients.

1 chicken.

1 large bunch mixed herbs such as thyme, parsley, bay and savory.

50g butter.

salt and black pepper.

10 to 15 cloves garlic, unpeeled.

White wine for cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Remove the chicken from the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking to allow it to temper. Also remove the butter at this time so as to allow it to become soft. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the herbs, then rub the skin all over with the softened butter. You really want to coat the butter on the bird. Don’t be shy – butter is good for you and it is what really makes this dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Place the bird in a roasting pan that is just large enough to hold it. Roast the bird for 15 minutes breast side up, then 15 minutes on one side, then 15 on the other, and finally 15 minutes breast side down. Add the garlic after the first 30 minutes, tucking the cloves around the bird in the pan juices. Finish cooking with the breast side up for 10 minutes if needed, (the chicken is done when the internal temperature is 165 F. Buy a digital thermometer as it will be one of your greatest cooking assets.)

Let the bird rest for 10 minutes breast side down and covered with foil. This will moisten the breast meat while keeping the chicken hot. For a quick sauce, place the pan with its pan juices on the stove and pour in a splash of white wine when it is hot and bubbling. This is known as deglazing. Scrape the pan as it reduces for about 10 minutes. taste for seasoning and serve on the side or pour over the bird once it has been carved.

To accompany the chicken a plate of simple green beans is my preferred option. Bring a pot of well salted water to the boil. Snap the ends off the green beans and once the pot has been boiling for a couple of minutes throw in the beans. Cook at high heat for 4 minutes. Drain into a colander and season to taste. Pour over a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and toss with some tongs.

Carving the chicken.

Most people don’t know that the tastiest part of a chicken is on its underside, away from the breasts. They are called the oysters and are the chef’s reward or a gift for someone special at the table.

What to do with the chicken carcass? I use it to make chicken stock, an ingredient that I always have on hand either in the fridge or the freezer. Next Sunday I’ll explain how to make a good stock as well as one of my favorite soups with which it can be utilized.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Bachelor cooking – Roast chicken.

  1. For the sake of International Relations, I had to fire up my calculator to figure out how much of a 4 ounce (oz) stick of butter 50g is.

    1)There’s 28.3 g / oz
    .
    2) 50 g / 28.3 = 1.76 oz

    A stick (US anyway) of butter is 4 oz

    3) So…1.76 oz / 4 oz = 0.44 stick

    4) Or, lets just say, a half a stick

    No charge for the consult

    Loyal listener (of both you and Cap),
    Van Knutson

    Like

  2. Wilbur Hassenfus

    When I was learning to cook, I found it difficult to go wrong by throwing herbs, butter, and white vinho verde at anything with fins or feathers — except by overcooking, of course.

    Like

  3. Ben David

    Roasting is related to grilling, and may therefore seem familiar to the male non-cook – but like grilling, the food is easily ruined by overcooking.

    If instead of a whole chicken, the bachelor buys parts – or learns how to bone/break down a chicken – we can then talk about perhaps more useful templates, which involve sauce and carry less risk of drying or overcooking.

    Here’s one template:

    1. Sautee chicken in Frying Pan

    2. Add flavor stuff –
    ketchup/tomato paste/canned tomatoes
    BBQ/soy/hot sauce
    Orange juice or concentrate
    Date/tamarind paste or dried fruit
    Wine or Balsamic vinegar
    Mustard
    Beer/Wine
    Pickled Ginger
    Peanut butter
    Sausage
    Sauerkraut

    3. If necessary, add some liquid.

    4. Cover and cook on very lower heat or put in oven.

    5. Turn on rice cooker.

    If we assume the bachelor has some dry spices and teach him how to chop vegetables (or use a mandoline), this “fricassee” template generates many dishes. And can easily be scaled up when necessary.

    Like

  4. For simple (mostly) and tested (always) recipes, check out my original blog “An Egg Without Salt”. You can find it at http://heresolong.blogspot.com (notice the missing “-voices” from my random thoughts blog).

    I have been cooking for years, learned the basics from my mother (who was a good if simple cook) and went from there. I love cooking other than the fact that, there only being one of me right now, it is not as fun to just cook for yourself all the time. I find my self skipping the cooking and eating thrown together stuff just because I don’t want to take even the minimal effort when I am tired in the evening. After listening to your cooking podcast I am trying to motivate myself to do more, even though I will be the only one eating it.

    For a while my buddy and I cooked Christmas dinner for our veteran’s group. Seventy five people and we did everything from scratch and properly. None of this institutional food. Unfortunately he moved away and I didn’t really want to do all that myself so now we hire a caterer. They are good but not to the same level.

    I also bought an electric pressure cooker recently and am enjoying that for stews and other “slow cooker” recipes. The ability to make something that would normally slow cook for six hours without having to get up early to make it in the morning before work is great. I’ve made stews, fajines, and adobo so far and enjoyed every one of them. I’m looking for other recipes and will be adding them to the blog as I get around to it.

    Like

  5. TechieDude

    Cooking is one of the magic keys to a girls heart. After a while though, don’t compare and don’t invite comparison if she isn’t as good. My wife’s issue is she doesn’t understand some of the basics, so substitutes. This weekend, we learnt that gluten is one of those things that makes a roux a roux. You can’t use a nut based or corn based flour.

    This is probably the only place I can level that advice. It won’t be appreciated here.

    Just don’t deviate from the recipe, technique, or classic ingredients.

    Myself, I learned to cook after late nights working. I’d nap on the weekends to cooking shows on PBS back in the day. After a while, I realized it wasn’t that hard.

    When I was dating, I made chicken soup for the future wife, by scratch. Even the noodles.
    I crossed the rubicon when I could make traditional dishes she grew up with better than her.

    It starts with appreciating food, and liking to eat.

    Like

  6. TechieDude

    If you are starting to learn to cook, you need to tool up.

    Get:
    A sharp chef knife. One that can be sharpened, with a steel probably. Learn how to use it.
    Stock pot, with a heavy base. I like stainless steel.
    Large saute pan, stainless, straight sides
    Medium fry pan – Iron, or steel
    Large cast iron pan
    Couple decent sauce pans- all pots and pans with metal handles – no plastic.
    Grater.

    The point of the steel and iron is that you can roast with them, pan sear, or saute. They can go in the oven. Versatility is the key here.

    You can find this stuff discounted anywhere. After decades of cooking, I’ve learned to avoid any non-stick cooking implements. They inevitably degrade over time, or someone will leave it on the flame and ruin it. At that point, they are decidedly NOT non-stick, and they will leech teflon or whatever into your food. It won’t kill you to use a butter or oil to saute.

    Like

  7. I love to eat good food, and the best way to guarantee a supply of excellent food is to become a good cook yourself. Cooking is work, but like everything worth doing it becomes easier and more satisfying the more that you do it.

    Indeed.

    Like

  8. I have cooked many a fowl over the past 50 decades in many different ways. For roasting, I prefer the beer can chicken method. It has never failed me, and the birds consistently come out juicy, tender, and nigh perfect. A good dry rub under the skin and in the interior, and the choice of liquid in the can will make infinite variety in the taste.

    Like

  9. The Resistance

    I was hoping you’d start this when I heard you talk about it on the podcast. It’s a good idea! Your blog had become my number one stop over the course of the year. Keep up the good work.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Bachelor cooking – Chicken stock. – Adam Piggott

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