Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stripping Down (Naked Chicken, Orange-Thyme Butter)

Whew! Things have yet to really calm down, yet, and I am having trouble keeping up. Unfortunately, chores and work and posting cut down on my time spent lounging about in yoga pants. You wouldn't want to deny me that, would you? Luckily, I have no shortage of recipes that can be made with minimal effort, allowing one to turn one's attention elsewhere.

At least until dinnertime...
When it comes to fast, or at least low-maintenance, food, I turn to an excellent gift I received in the form of Rozanne Gold's cookbook Radically Simple. It really is a treat: great photos, neat tricks, and everything is so pared-down and concise that it's hardly intimidating. I found I was heartily tired of the phrase "radically simple" by the end (why yes, I do read cookbooks cover-to-cover), but certainly not tired of the recipes.

One that stuck out to me most was Gold's "An Extremely Opinionated Way to Roast a Chicken." Naked chicken, as I like to call it, is something she devised in rebuttal to everyone's claim that chicken doesn't really have a flavor. She makes a point about taste clarity throughout the book and this recipe certainly allows you to experience the pure, unvarnished essence of a chicken. The recipe is, as should be expected, radically simple: you roast the chicken with absolutely nothing on it and nothing done to it. So that helps, too.

Avert your eyes from naked breasts
The recipe takes advantage of starting the bird breast-side down and then flipping it later in the cooking process, a tactic I've seen with Thanksgiving turkeys but have no desire to attempt in that scenario. A four pound chicken is a piece of cake, a twenty pound bird seems like another matter entirely. The result allows juices to pool into the breast meat, then simmer away, leaving the chicken basically fried in its own fat. With crispy skin, extremely tender, juicy flesh, and a delicate, wholesome taste I can only describe as "golden," it's a great one to try.

Since this is an exercise in taste clarity, Rozanne Gold recommends serving the bird as is, which I assure you is delicious. She also, however, offers the option of pairing it with garlic-chive butter or the simmered pan juices. Being me, I simply couldn't resist and chose to make orange-thyme butter spiked with the pan drippings. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but the sauce is just as excellent as the bird is. Sweet and savory, carrying the deeply roasted flavor of the pan juices, but playing with the lightness of citrus and green herbs.

Oozing with goodness
Naked chicken with orange-thyme butter
Adapted from Radically Simple

One of the keys to this recipe is to keep your oven at a screaming-hot 475. In my case, that resulted in a fair amount of smoke, so you may want to schedule this one for right after a good cleaning.

1 4-lb chicken
4 tbs salted butter
4 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of one orange
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees and unwrap the chicken, removing neck and giblets (if present). Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.

Gory detail
You may now unceremoniously (or with great pomp and circumstance, should you prefer) dump the chicken, breast-side down, in the middle of a roasting rack set into a roasting pan. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes.

Flipping the bird
Remove the chicken from the oven and, working as quickly as possible, flip it over breast-side up. Continue to roast for 40 more minutes.

Once the chicken is done, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest for about 15 minutes. You may now prepare your sauce. I begin by assembling all the ingredients so that they're ready to quickly mingle in the pan.

Humble origins
Melt the butter in a shallow saucier or skillet over medium heat, then stir in the orange juice, orange zest, and fresh thyme leaves. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, and allow to simmer for one minute.

You saucy minx
Remove the chicken to a platter or carving board, and tip the pan juices right into your butter mixture. Whisk until combined.

Carve the chicken. I like to cut the whole breast away and then slice against the grain, so each serving comes paired with a generous helping of the crackly skin, and serve with the orange-thyme butter to the side, so that guests may adjust the dish's clarity to their preferences. Serves 4.

Mmm... crackly...


KJL said...

Looks as good as these contest winners at Food52!:

J said...

Thanks! I have to say, I always have my trepidations with meat photos. It sort of puts me off (I usually make A handle all the raw stuff, to begin with). 475 degrees really does give it a healthy bronze glow, though!

Eolas Office Solutns said...

Wow, looks great! I will definitely be trying this. I'm so glad to have found your blog! Yay!

J said...

I'm glad you found us, too! Thanks for the compliments. Rozanne Gold is a genius, I never would've thought to try this without her, and I truly think it's one of the tastiest dinners I've ever made. Excellent ROI for the effort it takes.