I have been roasting chickens for... well, ages. For at least 12 years, but I can't remember the first one I ever roasted. What I do remember, though, is chicken after chicken after chicken, with moist, tender dark meat, and dry, tasteless white meat. Even as a child, I preferred dark meat, and it hasn't changed. But since it's more frugal, generally, to buy a whole chicken, I needed to figure out how to cook it better, but a way that is still easy and economical. In other words, I don't truss, and I won't spread a half pound of butter on the breasts to keep them moist :)
Enter my enamelled cast iron pot. It's a generic, cheap version, but it has very quickly become my favourite pot in the kitchen. I first tried it for roasting a chicken a few weeks ago, and while good, the white meat was still a bit dry (note to self: that meat is still in the freezer. Do something with it!). So today, I tried something slightly different: I started with the chicken breast side down, and I kept the lid on. For one entire hour. Then, I flipped the chicken, and cooked it at a higher temperature, just long enough to finish it off and brown the skin a bit.
Before, seasoned with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.
After. Could be browned a bit more, but not bad!
The result? Not bad at all! The white meat is a LOT better, and while the skin isn't the crispy goodness I'm used too, that isn't a bad thing, since I'm not tempted to eat it all in one sitting :)
The best thing about this method is that the stock gets made right in the same pot. Since I don't make gravy, I simply remove the meat I need (breasts, drumsticks, thighs and sometimes the wings), return the carcass to the pot, add an onion or two, some celery, some carrots, some peppercorns and a bay leaf or two, then cook until the carcass falls apart. I strain out the solids (pick out any meat and discard the rest), and place the stock overnight in the fridge, skim off the fat the next day, then use half to make soup (with the meat from the carcass) and half goes into the freezer for other uses. And all that bottom-of-the-pan goodness goes right into the stock.
And this is what makes a whole chicken an economical choice. I will get at least 16 meals out of this one, small bird:
- 4 suppers of roast chicken
- 4 meals using reserved meat, generally the breast meat. This can be chicken salad, quesadillas, or any other recipe that calls for cooked chicken
- at least 4 servings of soup
- at least 4 servings of another recipe that calls for stock
Even if I use all the stock for the soup, I get at least 12 serving of a meat-based meal, all for the cost of one chicken.