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Jamie Hertz: How to roast a perfect whole chicken

  - Jamie Hertz photo
— image credit: Jamie Hertz photo

By Jamie Hertz

There are so many things that I love about food at this time of year, especially the earthiness and comfort of the bold flavours. Not only does it draw good friends and family together but it also allows us to use big and rich flavours in our cooking.

One of my favourite go-to dishes for the fall and winter has to be without a doubt roasted chicken and vegetables. This dish is so simple yet so many things are over looked. The beauty of this is that it can be very versatile, whether you’re cooking to serve one person or a large dinner party.

The one thing that I do when teaching or preparing a dish is to maximize the flavour of each ingredient as well as make sure that every ingredient plays a role in the dish that I am preparing.

First off, I love to brine my chicken or turkey before cooking it, but you don’t have to do this. Brining allows you to add another layer of flavour to your meal and at the same time, it helps your dish keep its moisture.

I prefer using the whole chicken for this for a few reasons, including that it is less expensive. You can buy a whole chicken for the price of two cleaned chicken breasts and when you see how easy it is to remove the meat from a chicken you’ll wonder why you don’t just buy the whole thing and do it yourself.

When it comes to preparing your bird, don’t forget to season it both inside and out. That’s right, I said inside. It is so important to extract as much flavour from what you are cooking and by sprinkling salt and pepper and even jamming a lemon, garlic and other aromatics in the inside you are going to get those flavours seeping into the bird from the inside out.

For the vegetables I like to use brussels sprouts, purple and golden beets, baby carrots, cauliflower, whole cloves of garlic, leeks, radishes, turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes if you want to add the starch to your meal. I prepare all of the vegetables separately so that they cook evenly and come out the perfect doneness at the end.

One thing that a lot of cooks forget to do is to use ingredients that are in season and festive to bring out the true flavours of the season. I like to use toasted walnuts and dried cranberries and add them to my vegetable mixture and give them a good stir with fresh thyme, lemon juice, salt, pepper and grape seed oil. The cranberries will add a level of sweetness and tartness, not to mention the chewy texture that dried fruit does.

Now this is probably the most difficult part of the whole dish — so be sure to pay attention to this. You take all of your vegetable mixture and put it into a roasting pan, then take your chicken and place it on top and that is it. I went to chef school to master just that simple step, and I am sharing it with all of you!

Roast the whole thing like this from start to finish and all you have to do is toss the veggies every now and then to keep them from burning. I prefer the old saying, “low and slow is best” — so I recommend 375. This should take about 45 minutes depending on the size of the bird you are cooking.

You want the vegetables and bird to have a golden roasted look to it so you can start with a higher temp and lower it to finish everything off. This is where the dish will develop that extra layer of flavour that will keep you picking at it until there are no leftovers. If you find that the veggies or bird are getting too much colour and there is still a fare ways to go to finish, then simply cover it up with aluminum foil and carry on until it is completely cooked.

When you cook your bird directly on top of your potatoes and vegetables the juices that run off of the bird get absorbed by everything underneath and the more rich colours you have on your final product will add that perfect depth to you food.

Choose your ingredients wisely, know where they come from and remember your produce and meat didn’t come from the fridge or grocery store, a farmer worked hard to produce your vegetables and an animal sacrificed its life, so give it the respect it deserves.

 

Jamie Hertz is a Nelson chef whose columns appear monthly in {vurb}.

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