08 January 2011

(two of) The Best Chicken Recipes Ever.

While I'm exploring all things Hearth and Home related, I thought I'd put down recipes and things like this in smatterings. The blog itself will be updated on Friday - Frigg's day in fact - but the recipes and tips that I've come across along my blunderings will be a bit less... organized in their timing. 

On Facebook the other day, a friend asked if someone could give her the recipe to make a good stock. Only last year did I make my first chicken stock and I was hooked as soon as it was on the stove, simmering. No more of that store bought box stuff in this house! There is very little that is yummier than rice that has been boiled and simmered to velvety lushness in one part homemade stock, one part water. I melt just thinking about it. 

But, to make stock, one needs bones. 

And oh, the bones. 

If you've never made stock before, I really recommend you try this recipe for "Engagement Roast Chicken" by the Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten is a food goddess and this chicken never fails to come out of the oven moist and divine. (The name "Engagement Chicken" stems from the tales that women make this for their boyfriends and they propose. I boggle at these stories, but I know this is a very lovely recipe so perhaps there's some kernel of truth there. For myself, I think I offered to marry the chicken after the first two bites the first time I made this... so there you go)
melting succulent fabulousness

·         Ingredients for the roast: 
·         1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
·         Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
·         2 lemons
·         1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
·         Good olive oil
·         2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced
·         1/2 cup dry white wine
·         1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade**
·         1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
** Ok. So first problem with this recipe is that you need to have homemade chicken stock. Clearly, you may not if you're reading this and wanting to make your own. It's okay. Go get a box of the Swanson or whathaveyou. I won't tell anyone. You need it for the sauce at the end which is Also Deliciousness Incarnate. 

Ingredients for the Stock:

the giblets.
the roast.
celery - one decent sized bunch cleaned and cut into finger length segments is fine
carrots - about as many as you have celery. Tip the ends and chop into the same sized segments
onions - 2-3 large or 4-5 small to medium yellow onions, peeled and halved are fine. 
garlic - cloves peeled, to taste.
good herbs - bay leaves are excellent for stock making - one or two for this. You probably have enough salt and pepper from the roast and can always add more after you're done. I tend to err on the side of less salt than more, though I know cooks who oppose that tendency. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. - a decent oven thermometer is an infinitely good investment. if you overheat the oven, the chicken will *look* done far before it actually *is* done. Believe me. It took me several chickens coming out with their juices running clear but their thigh meat being very decidedly Not Cooked before I got this through my head. Learn from my stupidity, please. 
The first part of the recipe at the food networks site is just flat out wrong. It says to remove and discard the giblets - the funny little paper package tucked away inside the cavity of the roasting bird? Don't do that. I mean, yes, remove the giblets, but do not discard them. Tuck them in a tupperware or covered bowl and put them in the fridge until you go to make the stock. They should definitely go in the stock because they're full of nutrients and goodness, and we really ought not to waste the bits and bobs if we can use them. Don't worry - if the thought of eating chicken livers squeebs you out, you're not actually popping the little morsels into your mouth - all the solids of the stock are discarded at the end of the simmering process (which does make me a little sad, truth be told). 
Pat the outside dry. According to all my Julia Child cookbooks, leaving water on meat and trying to roast it is pretty much offering up your meat for a steam bath - which means it won't give up the golden, roasted color. It will instead look sickly and pale and very unappetizing. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of the lemons. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14-inch) roasting pan. (If the pan is too large, the onions will burn - I typically cram the bird and bits into my lovely dutch oven which is useful when I go to make the sauce at the end.) Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.
Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce, leaving the lemons and onions in the pan.
Place the pan on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect under the chicken. Carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce.
How awesome is that? 
And then it gets better. So you've had your mouth watering chicken and just melted over the sauce and all that good stuff, and now you have a chicken carcass. I do recommend carving up all the meat stuff that you want from the bird and leaving the things that you don't eat or want either on the bird or with it. Do Not Throw Away Anything. If you don't eat chicken skin, don't get rid of it! If you ate the drumstick, do not toss the bone! If you don't eat dark meat, don't despair! 
All those things - the whole carcass - goes into a large stock pot. I believe the pot I use is an 8 quart size. I literally take the plate that the bird is on and slide everything off into the pot - including any onions or lemons that have been left behind. Once you've done that, add the giblets, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, the bay leaves and enough water that it covers all the yummies in the pot. Bring this to a boil and then cover, turn the heat down and let it simmer for approximately three hours. If the water drops below the level of the carcass and noms, add more. You can let it simmer for longer and it will be a very rich stock, I usually have enough patience for three hours before I pull it so it can start to cool. 
The stock needs to cool enough that you can strain it. This might require another set of hands depending on how your upper body is. I am a bit of a t-rex with the arm strength - feeble at best - but I still manage to pour portions out into the strainer which has a large bowl below it to catch the stock. Those portions are divided into tupperware and put in the fridge - good for a week - or into the freezer - good for six months or so. 
Another bonus is that if you put it in the fridge and leave it for 24 hours, you can skim off the fat from the top and then store it – voila, you have a very healthy stock!
Sadly, all the bits from the stock making have to cool and then are discarded. If anyone has ideas for what I can use them for, I am all ears. 
Happy Stocking! Let me know if you try these recipes and how they turn out! 


  1. Hmm, I wonder if, after skimming the fat from the stock, it could be used as a base for homemade suet/seed cakes for the birds. It gets pretty sturdy when set, and over the winter at least you won't have to worry about it melting.


  2. I think you can. I usually save my bacon grease for that even though the boyfriend gets very perplexed when he sees a jar of grease in the fridge. The birds think it is nomtastic though :)

  3. I'm making this right now and the whole house smells amazing!!!