My Christmas gift to you, my readers: a recipe!
I decided that for our Christmas meal, we would eat something high in protein and flavor. We’d already done turkey and beef tenderloin at Thanksgiving, so those were out. Fish didn’t seem Christmasy enough, and pork just doesn’t have enough protein bang for the calorie buck, so chicken it was. I decided to buy a roasting chicken (larger than your average bird at about 5-6 pounds instead of 2-3) so that we could eat on it the rest of the week, and have the carcass left over for me to make stock/soup out of later on.
This was seriously the best chicken I have ever made in my entire young life. It turned out so moist and flavorful that I am pretty sure I will not roast chicken any other way ever again. I mean, I’ll still make barbecue chicken legs, but this…for a whole bird? It’s a great way to make it.
The secret to the moist meat? The brine. Brining a chicken is one of the best ways to ensure that it stays moist through the roasting process. Since you’re roasting at a high temperature, the brine will help break down the muscle fibers in the meat, loosening them up so they trap water inside. This helps keep the meat moist despite the high cooking temperature.
So here’s how I did it.
A roasting chicken (about 5-6 pounds)
For the brine:
- 3/4 cup kosher salt (this is the salt I always cook with)
- 1 large navel orange
- 1 large lemon
- 3 quarts water
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns
- 5 cloves fresh garlic cloves, minced
In a large container or stock pot (I used a 6 quart pot), pour the salt and water, mixing until the salt dissolves. Toss in the peppercorns and minced garlic. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and thyme and toss them into the water also. Using a potato peeler, peel only the skin (no pith) from the orange and the lemon and toss it into the pot as well. Supréme the orange and lemon, and then slice both fruits, putting the fruit slices into the pot with all the other aromatics. Don’t know how to supréme a citrus fruit? Here’s a helpful video how-to:
Now that you’ve got the brine made up, get your bird and gently place it in the brine solution and cover it. Place it in the refrigerator for no more than 48 hours, but leave it at least 24 hours for best results.
When you get ready to roast the bird, you’ll need:
- 2 navel oranges
- 2 large lemons
- 12 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 12 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil (you can use canola or olive; I use grapeseed since it has a high smoke point, good for high temps)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- salt to taste
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
Snip the leaves off of 4 rosemary sprigs into a small bowl. Strip the leaves off of 4 fresh thyme sprigs into the same bowl. Zest two large navel oranges and one large lemon into the same bowl. Measure two teaspoons of minced garlic into the bowl, about a teaspoon of black pepper and a little bit of salt into the bowl too. Add 4 tablespoons of grapeseed oil to this mixture. Then, mix to combine the ingredients together.
Make a bed for the bird in your roasting pan of choice with the remaining orange and lemon by slicing them into rounds. Add about 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and whatever thyme you have left to build an aromatic base for the chicken.
Now, take your bird out of the fridge and remove it from the brine, making sure all the liquid is out of the cavity. Trim off any excess fat that might remain on the body. Stuff the cavity with any remaining rosemary and thyme you have, and a large lemon that you have poked a few holes in so that the juice coats the inside of the bird as it cooks.
Then, put your bird in the roasting pan, breast side up. Using your hand, loosen the skin covering the breast and spread the herb-zest mixture all over the breast meat (about 2 heaping tablespoons). Then use the remainder of this mixture to spread all over the outside of the bird.
Cook the bird at 425 degrees F for 90 minutes to 2 hours or until the juices from the thigh run clear. Use a reliable meat thermometer and check the temperature of the breast meat. You want to cook it to about 170 degrees F as the temp will rise as the bird sits when it is removed from the oven and it will keep cooking. Let the bird sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting it so that the juices have a chance to settle.
When the chicken was done, I removed it to a plate for carving, and then took the fruits and herbs out of the cavity. I also took the fruits and herbs out of the roasting pan, and made a thin sauce from the pan drippings by adding 2 cups of hot chicken stock to the pan, scraping the browned bits up off the bottom with a whisk and reducing the volume of the liquid in the pan to about half of its original volume. I also squeezed the lemon from the inside of the chicken into the pan. DELICIOUS.
We feasted on the breast meat, and have plenty of leftovers for the next few days. I also froze the wings and carcass so that I could use them to make chicken soup in a couple of weeks. I already have a couple of chicken carcasses in the freezer to do this with. I think this weekend I will toss those others into the stock pot to make chicken chili out of…hmmm, it’s an idea!
Today’s eating was much better than yesterday’s. I clamped down in a big way on carbs by keeping my carb count under 20 grams. My protein intake today was huge, at 96 grams. Tomorrow I’m planning on eating more veggies, because I miss veggies when my carbs are this low. But you know what? I got this.