I have never understood why many people are afraid of cooking fish. What's so hard about searing a little salmon? It's chicken, specifically roasting a whole one, that I find much more intimidating. Sure I've done it, but the occasion always fills me with anxiety. Should I butterfly it or stuff the cavity with onions? Set the oven at 425°F or 475°F? And just how do I know when it's done? I don't want to serve a desiccated bird, but on the other hand, few things are scarier than cutting into a bite of breast that is still cold and pink inside. (Just thinking about it makes me want to run for the anti-bacterial hand wash.)
But since reviewing these magazine recipes was, in part, an experiment designed to make me a better cook, I decided that it was high time I practiced my poultry skills. This week I prepared the ginger-roasted chicken from the April issue of Food & Wine.
The recipe appealed to me because it was both simple and exotic. Sure, classic lemon-and-rosemary roast chicken is delicious, but it's hardly something to write home about. I wanted to make something with bright, tangy flavors for spring. The combination of fresh ginger, lime, and serrano chiles sounded perfect.
After a little bit of elbow grease (seasoning between the meat and skin), a minor burn (note to self: do not rub eye after seeding a hot pepper), and two phone calls home to my mother (I can't get the wings to stay tucked under!), my chicken came out of the oven crispy, fragrant, and perfectly done. The meat was intensely flavored with garlic and ginger, and the jus, doused with a little bit of Asian fish sauce at the end, added lovely notes of salt, citrus, and heat.
The meal was such a success it got me thinking ahead to a perfect variation for summer, and beyond. A chicken for all seasons!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 5 garlic cloves, 1 minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger, plus 12 slices ginger
- Salt and fresh black pepper
- One 4-pound chicken
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
Preheat oven to 425°F. Set rack in the lower third of the oven. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, minced garlic, and grated ginger.
Pat the chicken dry. Rub half of the butter under the skin and half over it. Season the bird liberally with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken breast-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan. Scatter the onion, garlic cloves, ginger slices, chiles, and lime around the bird and add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, until the breast is beginning to brown in spots. Turn the chicken over and roast for 20 minutes.
Turn the chicken breast-side-up again, and add another 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until done.
Tilt the chicken and drain the juices into the pan. Remove the bird to a serving platter. Remove the rack from the pan and spoon off as much of the fat as possible. Place the pan on the stovetop over high heat. Add the chicken stock and cook, scraping up the browned bits. Stir in the Asian fish sauce.
Serve the chicken, passing the sauce on the side.