Friday, May 2, 2008

Totally Easy Roast Chickens

I hadn't roasted a chicken for years... possibly decades... when we started eating low carb, but chickens have quickly become a staple for us. I do this so often that I've got the prep down to a 5 minute job, and if you do this a few times, it's the easiest thing in the world.

But first, two equipment tips... to make this quick and simple, you really need two things, a nonstick roasting pan with a rack (and this can be quite small. sells the one I have, and I love it. Look here.), and a food thermometer, preferably digital. Like this one. It's the only reliable way to know if chicken is done. I know a ton of other quick checks, but why take a risk on undercooked poultry? It's pretty kind of nasty even if you're not worried about bacteria.

This is a cheap meal, too, which is a novelty these days. I buy two whole frying chickens. You can buy roasting chickens, but they will cost more (usually more per pound, not just more because they're heavier) and take longer to cook, without (in my opinion) giving you much more in the way of usable meat. Cook two at once; it's the same cooking time, and then you have a cold one to make salad with tomorrow.

You will need:
Two chickens
and a choice of whatever the following seasonings you prefer
1 or 2 whole lemons
Onions or shallots
Garlic (peeled and crushed slightly)
Salt and pepper OR a seasoning blend like Weber's Lemon Pepper. Cajun mixes are nice if you like spicy.
Any fresh herbs that you have around. Thyme is particularly nice.

Preheat the oven to 425-450 F.

Rinse the chickens and pat dry with a paper towel. If you're using garlic, stick a little of it under the skin of the breasts. Rub the chicken inside and out with either salt and pepper or a seasoning blend. You can also rub the chicken with olive oil first... I've done this both with and without, and really I don't notice much difference one way or the other, except that it's messier... so these days I generally don't.

Then stuff whatever you like into the cavities. (Don't laugh!) I use: a lemon (cut in quarters), an onion (cut in half or quarters, and you don't really even need to peel it), crushed garlic, some celery, a bunch of thyme from the garden. Stuff to overflowing (they're little chickens!). Then just set the chickens next to each other on the rack... no need to truss, although it's a good idea to turn the wingtips under.

Put in the oven at 425-450 for 15 minutes. Then turn down to 300-325 for an hour. Test for doneness (see this link for lots of info about checking for doneness and food safety). Be sure to test the inside legs of both chickens, if you roast them in the same pan as I do, because since they're close together, they can cook more slowly than the outsides and thus remain underdone for longer.

It's a good idea to let any roasted meat stand for 20-30 minutes before carving to reabsorb the juices. Then hack apart and eat! (I'm a terrible carver.) You can also make a nice pan gravy with the drippings if you want to fuss with it.

This recipe has basically no carbs in it at all, since you're going to discard the onions and things in the cavity. (By the way, another great way to have better, economical food is to use those giblets you took out of the cavity plus the bones from the chicken and the leftover cavity stuffings and make a quick chicken stock. Better than the store stuff, takes no prep time to speak of, and makes you feel like you're really doing something!)

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