Some time ago I picked up a recipe from Father Zuhlsdorf for baked chicken. It is on this blog somewhere, but as it is awkward to compose this post on my tablet, as I am, there will be no hyperlinks, sorry. But it involves rosemary, lemon, butter, salt and pepper.
That said, I have finessed this recipe. I routinely brine the bird first, using red pepper, rosemary, black pepper and, of course, salt. No sugar. After brining, I allow the chicken to sit naked in the fridge for several days, to dry out the skin. Brining makes the flesh moist and flavorful; yet I crave crispy, crackly skin perfection. I have not achieved it yet.
Fr. Z recommends blasting the pullet with high heat for the first 30 mins., but I have neglected that lately. Thing is, I frequently have to leave it unattended -- i.e., to hear confessions and offer Mass, as was the case last night -- so I have opted instead for a low temp at first, and blasted it at the end. So I may return to this method.
In the meantime, I have tried other expediencies, such as the lengthy drying-out of the skin. Oh, and I might add here that I usually cook el pollo upside down; that is, breast down, and then flip it for that last bit. This is primarily aimed to make the breast even more juicy, as it is both protected, and the deposits of fat on the bird's back are melted and thus cascade down over the creature. This has the subsidiary benefit of the back skin being more cooked, and not soggy.
However, this works at cross purposes to my goal of parchment like skin. So my experiments continue.
With this last chicken, I tried several things:
- For the drying, I used the beer-can chicken stand, so the bird sat more or less upright, and thus dried on all sides. I don't know why I didn't think of that before.
- Le poulet sat a-drying two days longer than planned. I wondered if that was too long (it wasn't).
- I applied a technique I have left unused forcawhile. Before baking, I loosened the skin on the front and back, and shoved some butter and rosemary between the skin and flesh, and smoothed it out a bit. This does risk tearing the skin, but it works if you are careful.
-- On advice of friends, I rubbed the whole thing with baking powder. First time I tried this.
-- As a result of the latter, I wondered if I should still rub it all over with butter or oil as per usual. I opted not to.
-- When I then sprinkled salt and pepper, the seasoning did not adhere to the powdered skin. I did not anticipate this.
So what happened?
About three hours later -- after confessions and Mass -- the chicken was almost ready, but the skin still looked too pale. I could see the baking powder still. Not good. What to do?
I took out el pollo, as it was time to flip it. I decided not applying fat to the skin was a mistake, but I remedied this by spraying it with cooking oil. I hiked the oven to over 400, and put back in while I made a Martini.
Well, the chicken was soon sizzling away. After a while, I flipped it, sprayed more oil, applied salt and pepper, and used the broiler to give the breast side -- now up -- some crisp and color.
When time came to taste it, with a side of sauteed spinach and a glass of Chardonnay, it turned out to be very tasty,one of mybest! Not overcooked at all. The skin was better, but not there yet.
So what next?
I will try the baking powder again, but follow it with butter or olive oil (better than whatever bland oil was in the spray can). And I may return to using high heat at the outset. I am not ready to give up on the upsidedown method.