I was once watching a reality TV show where several ladies were vying for a man's affection and in so doing, had to prepare a chicken dish for the man's mother. I remember watching in horror as one of the ladies got a whole chicken out of the freezer, put it on a plate, threw on some salt and pepper and proceeded to throw it into the microwave.No, she was not trying to defrost the bird....she was cooking it!! At that moment, I had visions of a salmonella convention in the poor man's stomach. What did the finished product look like, you might wonder? It was still just pale. I imagine it might have felt a tad bit warmer to the touch than when it went into the microwave, but it still looked...raw. And with the sweetest smile on her face, she presented this atrocity to the man and his mother. YUCK!! Needless to say, none of them ate it.
There's four things I wish I could have said to the young lady had I met her in person on that day:
a) Salmonella really does exist, it's not a conspiracy theory.
b) Before you cook your frozen chicken, you have to let it thaw out in the refrigerator first, then at room temperature for at least 30mins so that it cooks evenly inside and out.
c) There exists a whole world of spices besides salt and pepper. Explore them and get creative.
d) No boo, cooking chicken in the microwave?? No. Just..no.
I realize that no one is born with a pot and cooking spoon and the knowledge to cook. These are skills we acquire along the way. Everything I know I learnt at some point. And I am still learning new things and challenging myself everyday. And whatever I have learnt, I am more than willing to share with others. After all, sharing is caring-right? I only wish I had shared a thing or two with this young lady before her "chicken a la micro" fiasco. So here's a recipe that will avert such situations in the future. It is a no-fail chicken recipe. Trust me, you will thank me later :-)
SERVING SIZE: Serves 5-6
-Oven safe roasting pan (I used a deep rectangular oven-safe glass dish).
-Oven-safe mini thermometer.
-Medium frying pan.
-Lifters (for transferring your cooked chicken to a platter (if you decide not to leave it in the baking pan).
-Wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
INGREDIENTS FOR VEGETABLES:
-3 large potatoes, washed, skin on, cubed to even size pieces (I used Yukon gold).
-3 large carrots (washed. peeled and quartered. See pic/video).
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use Canola).
-1/2 head of garlic, cut crosswise (skin still on).
-1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher)
-1 teaspoon onion powder.
-1 teaspoon ginger paste.
-1/2 teaspoon sage.
-1/2 teaspoon cumin.
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
-1/2 teaspoon paprika.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING THE VEGETABLES:
-In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, ginger paste, salt and spices and combine well.
-Throw in the vegetables and toss them well to make sure they are coated well with the spice mix. Cover and set aside. Let the flavors soak in for at least an hour.
INGREDIENTS FOR STUFFING:
-1 tablespoon butter.
-2 ribs of celery, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch dice.
-1 8.5 Oz. Jiffy cornbread mix, cooked according to package directions (I use evaporated milk in place of regular milk).
-1 cup low-sodium chicken stock (I use Swanson).
-1/3 cup golden raisins.
-1/3 cup rough chopped pecans.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING STUFFING:
-Once the cornbread has been cooked and cooled, cube it into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
-In a medium frying pan over medium heat, saute the diced celery in the butter for 3 minutes total, making sure to constantly stir. You want your celery al-dente.
-In a medium sized pan on medium heat, bring the chicken stock to a simmer and turn it off once done.
-Dump the cubed cornbread into the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to mash it up.
-Throw in the celery, raisins and pecans and give it a good stir. Set the stuffing aside.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN:
-1 5-6 Lb. whole chicken for roasting.
-1/2 head of garlic, cut crosswise (skin on).
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (you want it soft).
-1 tablespoon salt (I use Kosher).
-1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper.
-1 teaspoon ground ginger.
-1 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves.
-1 teaspoon ground ginger.
-1 teaspoon dry cilantro.
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.
-1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder.
-1/2 teaspoon ground coriander.
-1/2 teaspoon dhana jeera (spice can be found in Indian grocery store or online).
-1/2 teaspoon garam masala (spice can be found in international aisle of grocery store, online or any Indian grocery store).
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SEASONING AND PREPARING THE CHICKEN:
-An hour before you are ready to cook your chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter (in it's original package) for 30 mins so that the inside of the chicken is not too cold and cooks evenly.
-Meanwhile, using a fork, mash the butter and add the salt, pepper and all the spices and keep mashing until it is well combined. This is now a compound butter that you'll use to season the chicken.
-After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from its packaging. Remove the giblets from the inside of the chicken (the neck and gizzards). I discard mine.
-Transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Place the bowl in the sink and clean out the chicken under running water. Be sure to clean both the inside and outside.
-Place paper towels on a clean cutting board and place the chicken on it. Use more paper towels to completely dry off the chicken. Make sure to dry under the thighs and wings as well. You want your chicken as dry as possible or the butter won't stick to the skin.
-Remove the paper towel from underneath the chicken once the chicken is completely dry.
-Stand the chicken up on its shoulders and generously season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
-Then using your index and middle finger, gently pry the skin of the chicken away from the flesh, creating "pockets". Do this on both the front end where the breasts are and on it's back. Be careful not to completely separate all the skin from the flesh or it will look like your chicken is wearing a snugi :-/
-Use your fingers to scoop some of the compound butter and insert it into the "pockets" you have created and use your hand to spread the seasoned butter between the skin and the flesh (as if you were massaging the chicken. See video).
-Now use the rest of the seasoned butter to rub over the skin. Make sure to do the same to the thighs and wings.
-turn the chicken on it's back. Using a wooden spoon, first insert the half head of garlic into the abdominal cavity, followed by the prepared stuffing. Make sure to tightly pack in the stuffing so that it does not fall out as the chicken bakes (do not overfill!).
-Now using the kitchen twine, cross the chicken thighs over the chicken and tie them tightly together. Also, tuck the wings under themselves.
-In a single layer, spread the seasoned vegetables onto the baking pan.
-Transfer the stuffed and seasoned chicken from the cutting board onto the center of the baking dish that's lined with vegetables. Lay the chicken on it's back. (don't let the chicken touch the bottom of the baking dish as you want the hot air in the oven to circulate freely, ensuring that your chicken is cooked evenly all over). if you have an oven-safe meat thermometer, place it either on the chicken breast or on the fleshiest part of the thigh, but not touching the thigh bone.
-Using aluminum foil, carefully cover the dish. This will prevent your chicken skin from burning before the chicken is cooked through.
-Place the chicken dish in the center rack of the oven and let it cook for 1 1/2 hours. The internal temperature of the chicken when it's well cooked should be 165-170 Fahrenheit. If you don't have a meat thermometer, you will know that your chicken is well done once you cut between the thigh and the body and the juices run clear (not pink or bloody).
***When there's 35 minutes left in the baking time, remove the aluminium foil from the chicken and let the chicken brown for the remainder of the time. This will give your chicken nicely colored, crunchy skin. During this time, use your baster to drizzle some of the juices in the pan back onto the top of the chicken***
-Once the baking time is complete, remove your dish from the oven, cover it back with the aluminium foil and allow it to rest form 10 minutes before you curve it. This will allow the chicken to re-absorb some of it's juices and remain tender. If you curve your chicken right out of the oven, the juices will drain out, resulting in a dry chicken :-(
-4 cups chicken broth
-4 tablespoons butter.
-4 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
-1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher).
HOW TO MAKE THE GRAVY:
-In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring your chicken broth, salt and pepper to a simmer and set aside once hot.
-In a frying pan, melt the butter and slowly add in the flour, whisking vigorously to remove any lumps. This mixture is called a "roux".
-Slowly add in the chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Keep heated on medium heat until the gravy is nice and thickened.
BACK TO THE CHICKEN....
-After 10 minutes of resting, your bird will be ready to curve. The skin of the chicken should be flavorful and crispy, and the inside should be nice and juicy. The stuffing will be full of flavor. The celery and pecans will add texture and the raisins will add subtle sweetness to the stuffing, taking it to another level. You and your family or guests will dine sufficiently on this meal. Enjoy!