This is a meal that you prepare on a day off such as a holiday or a Sunday while hanging out at the house watching football. It is not too complicated to make but takes some time because you actually have to brine and dress the bird as well as make pan gravy.
So get a case of beer or a few bottles of wine and whatever other little poison you like to drink or smoke on a Sunday afternoon and hang out with friends or family and have a time.
Please read entirely before doing anything as this will save you some grief.
You will need:
-One whole roasting chicken between four to seven pounds depending on how many people you want to feed
-One white onion
-Three bulbs of garlic
- One Chicken Bouillon cube
-One Apple -Granny Smith preferred but just donít use those big red apples that have no flavor
-One bottle or can of whatever Hard Cider you like. I like Longbow but any kind will do.
-1/2 cup dry white whine
-Also have handy the following:
-Three large sprigs of Fresh Rosemary. It must be fresh not dried. I am fortunate enough to have a neighbor with a large bush right in the front yard which I pilfer late at night while stumbling home from the pub.
-Thyme-fresh or dried but never ground
-Kosher Salt (you will need about one cup, mostly for the brine)
-A peppermill capable of producing copious amounts of fresh ground black pepper
-Some butchers yarn for trussing the chicken (you can use any kind of yarn really as long as it isnít chemically treated, I have even used dental floss-unwaxed)
First you must make the brine.
In one four-quart pot bring one quart of water to a boil and have another quart of ice water handy. Put one cup of the Kosher Salt in the water after you bring it to a boil and make sure that it is all dissolved. Take the water off of the heat and pour the ice water into the pot. Make sure that the water is room temperature to the touch. (you are going to brine the chicken not boil it!) Then smash two bulbs of garlic with a large skillet on a cutting board or the counter, or whatever method you chose, and without bothering to peel any of it just throw it all in the water along with the four bay leaves and half of the apple cut into two quarters (you can smash them too if you want) into the brine-save other half for later. Then add the whole can or bottle of hard cider to the concoction.
Remove giblets from cavity of the chicken, they should be in a plastic pouch that will contain the heart, liver and gizzard of the chicken and save. Again, you must make sure that the water isn't even warm before you put the chicken in and also make sure that the chicken is covered with the brine. Make more brine using the same method if necessary. Then place the pot in your fridge and leave for at least four hours but never more than eight. You can leave it in the brine over night but take care to get the chicken out as soon as you wake up. Or you can prepare the brine in the mid morning whenever you wake up.
Now you must start to prepare the broth for making the pan gravy.
Put the giblets in a small saucepan and add half of the onion after dicing it. Place one sprig of rosemary in with a chicken bouillon cube and cover everything with water filling it almost to the top of the pot. Bring it to a simmer covering it then leave it on a very low simmer for at least three hours. You can even leave it for the entire time you are brining and cooking the chicken if you like just make sure that you add a little water from time to time as over a long spell the water will evaporate and you don't want to end up with giblet stew. The result should be a rich but very liquid broth.
Now you must prepare the rub.
Take a table spoon each of:
Fresh ground Black Pepper
Freshly minced or finely chopped garlic from a few teeth off of the remaining bulb
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mash all together in a mortar and pistil until it makes a fibery paste. Adjust amount of olive oil for consistency. This should yield about a third of a cup.
Now to prepare the bird.
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees
After the appropriate amount of time in the brine take the bird out and rinse it off thoroughly
inside and out. Discard brine and everything in it. Then pad dry the entire bird inside and out
with paper towels. Make sure that the bird is AS DRY as you can make it. You want as dry a heat as you can because you want to roast the bird instead of steaming it. Many people make the mistake of not drying it or putting a piece of foil over the bird when cooking. This is a big mistake and will result in soggy skin and a less than fantastically roasted meat texture and flavor.
Take a small handful of the Kosher Salt and rub it all over the interior walls of the chicken cavity. This will help dry it out a little more. Then take the herb rub and rub a film of it ALL OVER the chicken- under and over both wings and legs and in all the knooks and crannies. You should have some left over and you will toss this with the remainder of the apple (chopped into small wedges) and the remainder of the onion coarsely chopped into two pieces in a bowl with your hands. Stuff the onion, apple and rub mixture into the cavity of the bird along with the remaining sprig of Rosemary.
Then truss the bird. Watch video here:
Trussing is very important because it allows the chicken to be roasted evenly. You don't have to do a real expert job like the guy in the video does you just have to ensure that the legs and wings are close up against the body of the bird. You will be amazed at the results.
Place the bird UPSIDE DOWN, that is with the breast meat resting on the rack and the legs and wings up, on a roasting rack in a roasting pan of appropriate size. Place in oven and roast for 45 min. Then pull the rack out and turn the bird over and roast for the remaining 45 minutes. This is because much of the very fatty tissues and deposits are on or around the backbone of the bird so you want that to be on top during the first half of cooking so all of those juices get redistributed to the meatier tissues of the bird before you place it right side up on the rack where the skin will then have an opportunity to brown properly.
It is important to remember that cooking times vary and to consult on your favorite cooking website as to how long, and at what temperature you should cook the bird appropriate to size. You can always tell when the bird is done for sure if you take a long and very thin knife and poke it in-between the thigh and body of the bird penetrating towards the middle of the carcass and the juice comes out clear. Or you can just use a thermometer.
When you are sure that it is done LET THE BIRD REST FOR ABOUT 10 to 15 minutes before carving. This will allow for the juices to coagulate just enough to remain in the meat when you cook it as opposed to running out all over the place where they won't do your taste buds any good.
This is the perfect time to make the pan gravy.
After removing the chicken from the rack to sit remove the rack from the pan and place pan on the large burner of the stove and set burner on medium to medium high. If there is a whole lot of fat in there then you can take some out if you want but fat is great to make the rue with. Make the pan just hot enough to hear the little gems inside (little pieces of fat that have blackened in the fat on the bottom of the pan) crackle for a little bit. Use a whisk to scrape as much of these free as you can and then you take about a half cup of whatever white wine you have (remember you must be able to actually drink the whine that you cook with don't use that cheap cooking whine bushtit) to deglaze the pan and use the whisk to free the remaining gems from the pan. Reduce this a little ensuring that all of the alcohol in the wine is evaporated.
This is when it gets tricky. You must have ready at hand a small bowl filed with corn starch and the broth we made already drained with all but the liver discarded. (I like to eat the heart myself, my own special treat) Place the liver aside and get ready to use it as directed.
Take a small handful of corn starch, just under a quarter cup and toss it in the pan all the while stirring the reduction. It should be no more than an 1/8th inch deep and little bubbles should be coming up above where the heat source is. Continue to whisk and add corn starch a little bit at the time until the mixture turns brown and thick. This is called rue and you must be very careful not to burn it because that will ruin everything. Once you get it really thick then you take the broth and add a little bit at a time along with a little corn starch each time all the while stirring and maintaining thickness and color.
This is the most important part and will make the whole thing so good you won't believe it.
When you get a good amount in the pan and are under way take the liver and put it in the pan. Smash the liver with a fork against the side of the pan with a fork. This should be easy as it will be well cooked by this time. Then incorporate into the gravy then let the whole thing stew for just a minute to make sure all of the flavors come together.
By this time the chicken should be done setting and is ready to carve. Serve with mashed potatoes or my Mashed Butternut Squash