Friday, July 27, 2012

Chicken in a pot

You have probably noticed that I don't write a lot about meat here. Sure, I use chicken stock like I use salt, but buying and cooking actual pieces of meat ventures into a totally unfamiliar territory. Part of this is philosophical: it was an ambiguous combination of the cruelty of the animal industry and the effects of eating meat on our health and the environment. The New York Times Ethicist column on eating meat presented some points on why it's ethical eat meat, but the winning argument, while incredibly compelling, was also rather unrealistic for many people financially and in terms of scale for our country.

In any case, some personal health reasons made it pretty much necessary for me to increase my meat intake. To be honest, I still don't like the idea of eating industrialized animal products but I definitely don't have the means to buy only humanely and sustainably-raised animals.

All that aside, it's actually been kind of fun to learn more about meat. I thought I would start by learning some really simple, staple recipes. Roast chicken seemed like a good idea until I remembered pretty much every dry, tasteless roast chicken I've had. So instead, I settled for a chicken in a pot recipe that would produce a more tender chicken.

You start by sauteing some vegetables and searing the chicken in a dutch oven:

Once it's browned on both sides, you throw it into the oven, and forget about it.

1 hour later.... voila!

Winner winner, chicken dinner:

This recipe produced possibly the tastiest chicken I've ever had. It's incredibly juicy and flavorful, with none of the dry texture that can happen, especially in the breast. Keep a careful eye on the temperature (the CDN instant read thermometer is a good, cheap one) to prevent overcooking, and I hope this dish changes your life just as it had changed mine.

Chicken in a pot
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Because of how simple this recipe is, the quality of the chicken matters. I used Bell and Evans chicken (found at Whole Foods), which was still pretty inexpensive at $10 for a 3.5 pound chicken. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the chicken: a 3.5 pound chicken took 50 minutes to cook while a 6 pound one can take up to two hours. So an instant read thermometer is crucial here. You want 160F for the thickest part of the breast and 175F for the thickest part of the thigh.

1 whole chicken, tailbone and giblets removed (the neck can be frozen to make stock later on)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 carrot, chopped (1/4 cup)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf
juice from 1 lemon (optional)

Adjust the oven rack to its lowest position and preheat oven to 250F. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering, and add chicken breast side down. Scatter onion, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf around chicken and cook until chicken is browned, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon inserted into the cavity, flip the chicken and cook until both chicken and vegetables are browned, about 7 minutes.

Cover pot with a large sheet of aluminum foil and then cover tightly with the lid. Place pot in the oven until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160F and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175F.

Remove chicken onto a carving board, and let it rest by tenting with the sheet of aluminum foil for 20 minutes. In the mean time, strain the juices remaining in the pot and skim the fat. Reduce the juice slightly in a small pot over low heat, adding the lemon juice at the end. Carve the chicken and serve with jus.

No comments: