Updated: Jul 15, 2020
In appreciation for the roasted chicken.
As a product of the 60s and 70s, I did not grow up loving chicken. For my siblings, and me, it was an uninteresting substitute for a dinner of substance. Maybe it was the image perpetuated by dinner scenes of television programs of the day, I am not quite sure. But I did not embrace chicken as a beloved food group for quite some time.
It was not until I moved to Europe in 1989 that I grew to appreciate chicken as a delicious dish. Initially, I was hooked by a roast chicken vendor on a pedestrian street of a seaside resort outside of Barcelona (Sitges). The vendor served only roast chicken and french fries (chips), which were “cheap as chips” and carried away wrapped in white paper and stuck in a plastic carry bag.
My appreciation for roast chicken was elevated when I moved from Barcelona to Lisbon in 1992. The Portuguese have a mastery of roast chicken (chicken on a spit, or rotisserie) that is unrivalled. The birds rotate for hours on a huge rotisserie rack while dropping juices and spices on the other birds below. These are served with a choice of chips or salad (or both) – either plain or spicy. The latter is known as “piri-piri”, which is a hot chili sauce that can be cooked into the chicken, or sprinkled on after serving. The sauce is deadly, and I love it.
So this inspired me to find different ways of preparing chicken. While I will generally lean towards the roasting of chicken (as evidenced by my love for Chicken under a Brick, mentioned in previous posts), I have found that chicken is an excellent medium for channeling flavor. I now appreciate finding ways to use chicken to delight the senses.
A favorite method includes a simple roasting of the chicken with whole garlic and lemon halves in the cavity along with a bunch of herbs, like cilantro, thyme or oregano. It is important to dry the bird entirely on the outside and in the cavity so that the skin will get crispy. It also helps to dry rub the bird with salt beforehand and allow to sit for some time to tenderize the meat.
Another method is to introduce fat and herbs under the skin of the chicken. I prepare a mixture of butter, chopped garlic and cilantro and then ease it under the skin around the breasts and the legs. It helps to caramelize the skin and moisturize the meat.
I also love mixing pulled chicken with mustard, cream, capers and orzo in a dutch oven that bakes in the oven. But my real go-to is to butterfly a medium size breast and sauté in my favorite non-stick frying pan (also previously mentioned) with a little butter/olive oil mixture and either a light sprinkle of paprika or salt ‘n’ pepper.