Unreconstructed Roasted Chicken

There are few things in the field of food, cooking and culinary arts which I detest more than overcomplicated recipes (note, not “complicated” but “overcomplicated” – as in, recipes which are made more complicated than they need to be, as opposed to recipes which are complicated by definition), and political correctness.

Preamle: I still don’t have a camera. But I soon will again, I hope!

Though, to be honest, I can’t stand overcomplicated things or political correctness in any other aspect of my life (excluding business interests, but there I obey the general conventions for the sake of said business interests, not because I enjoy them), so hating these concepts with a passion where it comes to my favorite hobby (that being food) is not any sort of surprise.  Especially so since I am a firm believer in letting consenting adults do what they like in their bedroom – or kitchen! – so long as they aren’t hurting anyone (yes, that means no inhumane slaughter of something living for sake of artistic splattering of kitchen in blood – that’d go under animal abuse).  But, that – animal abuse, that is – is not the soapbox which I plan to climb today.

Today’s soapbox of choice is the fact that I think there is a downside to the foodie culture.  Gasp!  Yes!  Sadly, there is a downside to most everything, and the culture to which I belong by choice and calling has one too.  And the overcomplication of recipes and food preparation by certain pretentious popular personalities (no names as usual) is a pet hate of mine.  Why?  Because it’s unnecessary, wasteful and worst of all – it drives people away from wanting to even try home cooking.  Because let’s face it (or maybe let’s not, but hypothetically), no one looks happy at the prospect of staring at a recipe with a 3-page ingredient list given in fractions of a gram and requiring 2 different thermometres to achieve that “perfect” something or other.  All right, the professionals who view it as a challenge may, or the masochists among us, but not the average person, and certainly not I.

Roasted chicken is one of the easiest, most basic things possible to cook.  It is delicious, and most people don’t dislike it – it’s a both, very inoffensive dish, and well-liked at the same time.  It’s also one of the most frugal ones, so there are at least three good reasons to cook it right there, yet somehow these days, my generation and the younger ones especially, simply don’t consider it as an option when they shop for dinner.  Instead, they reach for the box of skinless portions, both much more expensive, more difficult to prepare, but, apparently, simpler in the people’s minds to deal with.  I can’t count how often I’ve had friends look at me strange when I suggested a roasted chicken as an easy solution for a meal.  You’d think I was suggesting to catch, pluck, gut and then marinate it for 3 days, the eyes I was getting!  One of the people I’ve served chicken to even termed it “grown-up food” and commented regarding how it is somewhat daunting to cook a whole animal, and on how nice a presentation it was to have it served.

I was beyond surprised – somehow, I never considered roasting a whole chicken to be difficult.  Why?  Well, here’s where we get to the whole issue of foodie culture overcomplicating some things – roasting a chicken is not one of those things which should be complicated.  Why?  Because it just isn’t.  True, there are things one can do to improve on just a basic roasted chicken, but even at its most basic (with salt), it’s still very good, and very, very uncomplicated.  And so this is me, calling on all of you to not try to reconstruct (in the political sense) the poor roast chicken.  Trust me, it’s a chicken.  You roast it and eat it.  And it’s delicious and comforting and cheap and good for you on top of it.  What the heck else do you need?

How to roast a chicken?  There isn’t, specifically, a recipe for this, because there isn’t any needed.  What you need is a roasting rack, a chicken, some salt, and whatever you can find in your fridge or cupboard in terms of “additional seasoning” (should you want any).  Butter, cream cheese (flavored with herbs or such is a bonus!), lemon, orange, ginger, garlic, onion, olives, fresh herbs, frozen herbs, dried oregano, black pepper… the list goes on, but past the chicken and some salt, it’s all optional!  Of course, you can also brine the chicken for a few hours, let it dry in the fridge for a few hours, stuff it, and there are about a hundred other things you can do to dress the chicken up – but the point is that, just for roasting the bird for a quick and easy dinner, they aren’t neecessary.

Here is what you do to roast a chicken:

  • Buy a chicken and bring it home.
  • Set oven to preheat to 250°C.
  • Unpack the chicken, rinse in cold water and pat dry with some kitchen paper.
    • OPTIONAL STEP!  Make little incisions cutting through skin on each knee, and poke edge of knife at the tip of breasts above cavity, to separate skin from meat.  Stick fingers in and wiggle them between meat and skin on each breast and thigh.  Stuff in bits of butter, cream cheese, slices of garlic cloves, thinly sliced lemon (half-slices into thighs, full rounds onto breasts), etc.
  • Lightly brush or get your hands oily and simply rub the chicken skin with cooking oil (helps prevent it burning).  If you have used a lemon in previous step, squeeze some juice on top of it – gives crispier skin.
  • Sprinkle with salt and optionally, pepper.
    • OPTIONAL STEP AGAIN!  If using an onion, cut in half and put into cavity.  If using a lemon, put the squeezed-out lemon in cavity.  Or some olives, or a quartered and cored apple.
  • Place chicken on rack in a roasting dish, pop into the 250°C preheated oven, and lower heat to 190°C.
  • Roast for 1 hour per kilogram of chicken.  Average roasting chicken weighs in at about 1.1-1.3kg, so the roasting time is about 1 hour and 10 minutes, plus 15 minutes resting time.

Yes.  It is that easy.

Carve off the breasts, and the legs if you are so inclined, and enjoy.

So, we have the easy covered – but hey, I promised it was frugal too?  And so it is – after eating the breasts and some of the legs, strip the chicken carcass of meat – that can be used in chicken sandwiches or salads, and then make stock which can be eaten on its own as chicken soup, or used in whatever else calls for it.

So there it is – unreconstructed roasted chicken – and absolutely no need to complicate it further.


6 thoughts on “Unreconstructed Roasted Chicken

  1. Super write up this, Veronika. Everyone should know it isn’t that intimidating to make roast chicken. Agreed, you can’t go wrong … unless one is busy in their chambers doing what consenting adults do (slaughtering chickens?), and forgets all about it. In which case, you’ll end up with Cajun Crispy Chicken! And yes, the things we can do with the leftovers … sometimes I think I make roast chicken just for the leftovers. Weird, I know.

    1. Hey, and thanks a lot!

      I know, and I was surprised every time someone acted like it is intimidating! I think it’s one of the starter dishes people can learn to cook for themselves (way easier than trying to make sure a boneless-skinless breast doesn’t end up dry!).

      And, leaving adult activities aside ;), so long as you don’t overcook the chicken to a crisp, it won’t be dry, because the skin fat bastes it, and there are few things I love better than a roasted chicken breast with crispy skin (om nom nom!) on it.

      Leftovers are great too, but well… sometimes there are some. Sometimes.

  2. I feel the same way about the overly involved recipes, and have stripped down many of them just to get to the good food buried under layers of wtf.

    When I need a challenge like that, I bake – can’t really wander from the recipe too much when you do that…

    1. I literally laughed out loud at the “buried under layers of wtf” – thank you, I needed the giggle!

      As to baking – I will quote an ex-boss of mine (who was a head regulatory scientist for Sara Lee Bakery Group at the time): “Cooking is an art. Baking is a science.” And, he’s right, as you are – can’t really mess with the baking recipes too much. I know, because I have to (cake-loving egg-white-allergic boyfriend = much effort!), and I know how often the recipes end up in failure when you try to substitute or even change a little. Baking aside, cooking certainly shouldn’t be a challenge – and hey, if your ingredients are fresh and delicious, why bury them under eleventeen layers of gods-know-what? A simple seasoning or two usually will do better than twenty!

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