Playing (whole) Chicken

I remember back when I was a little girl living with my parents my mother would have a panic attack every time I would pick up a Chef knife.  It wouldn’t matter if I was cutting a watermelon, chopping an onion, or slicing a chicken breast.  Every time she was present, she would cover her eyes and shriek, “I can’t watch!” and just wait for me to accidentally cut off my entire hand.  Well, that never happened.20160120_222231

And boy am I glad her endearing fear of me maiming myself didn’t transfer to me through osmosis.  I use my Chef’s knife every day, and in almost every meal. Interestingly enough, I don’t usually use it for chopping or slicing most often.  No, the most often used action is for smashing.  Garlic, specifically.

You need to smash the garlic to get the skin off. You can’t chop the garlic, or put it through a garlic press, unless you get that pesky skin off.  I know that you CAN buy the pre-minced stuff. I have indulged myself in it my fair share of times.  No matter what though, I always come back to the whole head of garlic.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a freshly smashed and chopped clove.20160120_222214

Don’t know how to smash garlic without accidentally cutting off your entire hand? Well, it’s easy!  Simply lie your clove on a cutting board. Place your chef’s knife (a paring won’t work. Don’t even try it.) on top of the clove, sharp side pointing away from you. Steady the handle with one hand, and quickly bring the heel of your hand down onto the side of the blade. With any luck, your garlic should be nice and crushed, and will pop open on the sides. Delicious.  Then you can just peel your garlic and you’re well on the way.

I can tell you this, there’s no way I could make a delicious whole chicken without some nice fresh garlic.  They go together like peas in a pod.  I make whole chickens on a regular basis.  Not only is it delicious as hell, it’s also crazy cheap.  A whole bird will run anywhere from $5-$12 depending on it’s size, if it’s cage free, on a vegetarian diet, so on and so forth.  Even though I don’t think the birds taste any different, I normally try to buy a mid-range chicken.  Even if it doesn’t make a difference to me, it certainly makes a difference to the chicken.  Let’s vote with our pocketbooks, eh?

Even more people are afraid of making whole birds than are afraid of smashing garlic. Fear not, my friends! Whole birds are super easy to make, they just require a bit of patience. For an average chicken, it’s a safe bet to say it’ll take an hour and a half to cook, so prepare accordingly.

First thing’s first, gather your ingredients. You’ll need:

  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Bay Leaf
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter

Start with your onion, carrot, celery and garlic.  I don’t even bother to peel my carrots. I just chop off their heads and their feet, and give them a good rinse. Same goes for the celery.  Chop the stalks in half, and set aside.  Smash a few cloves of garlic, and quarter and peel your onion.20160120_193956

Rinse your chicken in the sink, and stuff it with your freshly prepped veggies inside the cavity of the bird.  (If you have all the gizzards and giblets, you could certainly make something with them.  I either throw them in stock or just throw them out.)  After all of your veggies are in, slide the bay leaf under the breast bone.  Le yum.  I use a dried bay leaf.  Obviously fresh would be far more flavorful, but this isn’t France and a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

Throw that in your baking pan. I like to use an 8″x8″. Next, make a paste with your seasonings.  The olive oil is your liquid, and just mixy mix until your happy with the flavor profile. I used what’s listed above, but never measure.  If you prefer a more bland basic chicken, just use poultry & Italian seasoning. Lastly, put two tablespoons of butter atop your bird. That way when it bakes you get a nice brown crispy skin.  YUM.

Put it into your pre-heated oven at 350°.  Check the temperature after an hour, but it probably won’t be ready for an hour and a half.  The internal temperature should reach 170° in the thickest part of the bird.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before you slice into that beautiful beast.  The skin should be golden and crispy, and it should be sitting in a substantial amount of it’s own juices.

Pour those delicious juices over rice & veggies.  Save the rest, along with the carcass, for a fantastic stock (and homemade chicken noodle soup!)  This is such an easy recipe it doesn’t even warrant putting the whole bit down at the bottom.  20160120_222218

Haley also adores this recipe.  Cat knows her stuff. Have your bird, and eat it too.

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