Monday, October 11, 2010

Whoa .. Roast Chicken

I met a teacher a couple of years ago that didn't like the colonial-political ideals behind Thanksgiving. For years, we had fooled ourselves into thinking here in Canada, our Thanksgiving was really more about harvest and thanks for the harvest. It was the American Thanksgiving that marked the beginning of colonial genocide. Who are we kidding? Politics aside, this teacher still needed to acknowledge the holiday and the day off school, so she called it Turkey Day. When I met the students she used to teach (she taught them in grade 6 and I got them in grade 7), none of them referred to this day as Thanksgiving. I'd hear things like "It's Turkey Day in one more week!" and "Is it already almost Turkey Day?" Since then, I've kind of adopted the term when I speak to my students about Thanksgiving, just to see their reactions. I can't really say that I'm rejecting the holiday since I do enjoy the day off and the excuse to bake with pumpkins and apples and cranberries, but some things can't be swept under the table, so Turkey Day it is!

That being said, we did not make turkey. We did the cliche thing and made chicken instead. Same thing, right? Ok, maybe not, but chicken was what we made. And oh what a chicken it was! I take no credit -- it was all my partner and his out-of-the-box techniques. What do I mean by that? First, there was no trussing involved, which some might say would result in dry chicken (but dry it was not!). Also, we didn't rotate the chicken at all -- we kept it breast-side down the whole time (result? Very juicy breast meat!).

What did we put on it? No butter. Not a drop. We did rub it first in cookie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom), and then with a paste made with herbs, oil and mustard. It needed lots of attention and lots of love -- ie. basting every 10 minutes and adding stock to the pan if things were looking too dry. But the real secret were the temperatures. 15 minutes at 500 degrees to seal in all the juices, 15 at 450 and then down to 400 for about an hour. This got us very crispy skin and tender, juicy, flavourful, perfectly cooked meat. As we don't have a meat thermometer, we relied on timing, looks, experience (not mine of course!) and a culinarily-trained mind. I would probably have punctured it to be sure, but I think you can just look at the juices oozing from the cavity and if they're clear, the chicken is probably done. That, and I think the general rule is 15 minutes per pound. Mind you, I wouldn't have tackled this project without my partner .. unlike certain people who are brining and roasting turkey as we speak ...

Make some chicken! Turkey Day won't mind at all.

Roast Chicken with Spices

one 3(ish) pound chicken, cleaned and patted dry

1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of dried oregano
about 6 sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of mustard

roasting veggies of your choice (we used carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions)
1/2 cup of stock (and more as needed)

1. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. Don't forget to put some in the cavity. Rub with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

2. In a mini-chopper, mix together the oregano, sage, mustard and oil until you get a runny paste. Spread over the chicken.

3. Place your chicken on a roasting pan and arrange your vegetables around it. Pour the stock in and bake at 500 for fifteen minutes. Baste the chicken and turn the oven down to 450. Bake for another 15 minutes, baste, and turn the oven down to 400.

4. Roast the chicken at 400 for about an hour, basting every 10-minutes minutes and adding stock if needed. Rely on which ever method you like to tell when it's done.

5. Leftovers are awesome used in this biscuit-topped pie ... and in chicken salad sandwiches with a handful of raisins and a dash of curry powder. Enjoy and Happy Turkey Day!


  1. That is a mighty fine lookin' (and tastin') chicken. hope you had an awesome turkey day and long weekend! I need to get a baster..

  2. thanks mia! happy turkey day to you too! how did your turkey turn out? pics??

  3. What a good looking bird! And I love the use of the cookie spices too, that must have tasted amazing!

  4. thanks Monkia! it was totally awesome -- leftovers were even better.