Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pan-Roasted Chicken

Do you know what the problem with roasted chicken is? The dark meat should cook to 175 but I never want to cook white meat past 160. I've seen many inventive ways of dealing with this: upside-down cooking, foil breastplates, dark voodoo incantations - but none of them ever work. However, I think I have had a revelation: just don't cook the white meat! Now don't get me wrong, breast meat is great for grilling hot and fast, especially after a marinade or brine. But when you want the rich, savory flavor of roast chicken, I find that everybody fights over the drumsticks and thighs while leaving the breasts to get cold. Besides, since everybody wants to grill the "boneless, skinless chicken breast," that leaves meat counters with family packs of leg quarters at ridiculous prices (for example, I just saw a pack of them sell for 59 cents per pound)! Additionally, the method described here (adapted from a recipe I found in Cook's Illustrated) is fast and very easy - great for a fancy dinner or a weeknight supper.

Our recipe served with a lovely stuffed bell pepper and salad

  • 4 chicken leg quarters, thighs and drumsticks separated
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 shallot, minced (you could also use red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into thin pads

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat a the oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat until it just starts to smoke. Lay the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan. Fry the chicken without touching or moving it until the skin is deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes (a splatter shield is a good thing here, but do not cover with a solid lid). During this time, the chicken skin may release quite a bit of fat (4-8 tablespoons). When the skin is brown, drain off the fat (reserving for later), flip the chicken pieces skin side up and add the chicken broth. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the thickest parts of the chicken pieces temp at 170, around 6-10 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and pour the broth into a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl. Off heat, wipe out the pan with a handful of paper towels (use tongs so you don't get burnt!). Put the pan back on medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of chicken fat collected from the browning stage. Put the chicken back in pan and fry until the skin becomes crispy, 3-5 minutes. Once the skin is very crisp, place the chicken skin side up on a serving platter and loosely tent with aluminum foil (make sure steam can escape so the skin stays crisp).

Using the same pan (do not clean out) sauté the shallot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, skim the fat off of the chicken broth in the 2-cup measure. Once the shallot has softened and started to turn brown around the edges, sprinkle on the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is slightly browned. Whisk in the defatted broth and simmer over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat and add the basil, parsley, and lemon juice. Still off heat, whisk in the butter pads one at a time until fully integrated into the sauce. Serve chicken and sauce immediately, being careful to pour the sauce around the chicken so as to protect the crispy skin on top.

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