Friday, August 19, 2005

So, the roast chicken post:

The night I was supposed to make it, Christie had an inexplicable craving for beef, so we did kabobs instead. Nothing too special there.

Then we had to pop in to KC to hang with friends and family. Once home, it was another couple of days before we really had time to cook, but there were issues again. I found the roasting pan with no problems, but not the V-rack, which is pretty essential if you don't want a soggy bird. I decided to make a virtue of necessity, and roast it outside, on the grill, which was a housewarming gift from Christie's folks.

Now, when it comes down to gas vs. charcoal, I come down firmly in the charcoal camp. Hardwood chunks, actually. Not only is there romance in cooking with real fire, but you get great smoky flavors ifyou use wood. And then there's the chemistry of combustion. Burning propane produces a lot of water vapor, which changes the way you work the grill. On the other hand, charcoal is a pain to start, and a pain to clean up. I had my old charcoal grill for something like six years, and I've had the gas grill something like six weeks, and I've used the gas grill more in that period of time than I used the charcoal one in the whole time I owned it. It's like they say: the perfect is the enemy of the good.

So, how did I roast the chicken? Start with your basic roasting chicken. There's a woman at the local farmers market that sells organically grown, pre-brined roasting chickens that are absolutely divine, but this time around, I was just using your basic supermarket chicken. Be sure to remove the giblet and the neck from inside the cavity, then salt and pepper the inside. Chunk up one lemon, a small onion, and a few cloves of garlic, and use them to stuff the chicken. Tie the drumsticks together, and run and length of kitchen twine around the breast of the bird to hold the wings in close to the body.

Meanwhile, turn the grill on high, and keep the lid closed. You want the internal temperature of the grill to be around 400 degrees, if not a little higher. (Most gas grills have a thermometer in the lid.) This'll give you a nice initial browning on the bird. Now, back inside.

Take the probe of your handy digital oven thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the breast or thigh (I used the breat, because I was cooking it breast up, and because was having trouble hitting the thickest part of the thigh). What, no digital over thermometer? Well, think about getting one if you cook meat, because they get rid of all the guesswork about just how done it is. They even make wireless ones so you can set it up outside, then go play video games on the far side of the house. Set the alarm to go off at 170 degrees.

Back at the grill, turn off the fire under one side of the grill. You're going to be cooking this bird with indirect heat. Rub some olive oil over the skin of the chicken, and put it on the side of the grate where you just turned the heat off. Keep an eye on the temperature for a bit, until it stabilizes, then adjust the fire until you get it to stay right around 350 degrees. Now, go do something else until the alarm goes off. It'll probably take about an hour, but that really depends on the size of your bird. (Which is why a temperature alarm is so much better than a timer!)

In other culinary news, I made a lemon meringue pie last night, but screwed up the custard, so it was more like lemon meringue soup. Damn. Oh well, what's life without challenges? And since the pie was for a party, Christie bailed me out by making a second pie this afternoon, after I made the crust over lunch. Her custard seems to have set up just fine, proving (to me, at least) that I am not the culinary genius of the household. She's got mad skillz, that girl.

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