Monday, January 5, 2009

Ahh, roasted

Maybe it's the gray day, but something roasted sounds fabulous for dinner tonight.

Roasting is simply the act of cooking something by surrounding it with dry heat (oven, in this case), uncovered. The heat penetrates, slow and steady, the surface of the meat and then finishes off the cooking process by browning or caramelizing the surface. You can bake something in the oven, covered, but the trapped moisture will steam-bake your food -- not give it a good roast, which needs that dry air swirling about.

Roasting works great on beef and poultry. We had a fabulous rib roast for our Christmas dinner, and roasted chicken is always a hit. The folks at the National Chicken Council have a few suggestions to pass along for roasting the bird:

To roast meat or vegetables means to cook them dry, at a high heat. With no added liquid in the dish, the natural sugars in the meat or vegetables caramelize, forming the crunchy crust that seals in moisture. Roasted meats like chicken are no-fail on doneness when cooked to temperature; a meat thermometer should read 180 degrees when inserted near the thigh bone, or 170 degrees when inserted into breast meat. (Make sure you don't touch a bone, though, or you'll get a false reading.)

When roasting meats like chicken, the natural moistures are forced to the center by the high heat. To redistribute those juices throughout, let the chicken “rest,” or sit at room temperature, for a few minutes before serving. (All those folks who carve into a turkey or rib roast just out of the oven are rewarded with a geyser of juice on the platter.... and dry meat on their plates.)

From the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two new recipes that feature roast chicken. One uses a pre-cooked, rotisserie chicken to make a delicious salad; the other is a new way to roast at home.

Cuban-style Gingered Chicken is made with the easiest-to-cook, and perhaps most impressive-looking, piece of chicken available: the whole bird. Marinate a four to six pound chicken in a Cuban-influenced blend of ginger, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, brown sugar, chicken broth, lime juice, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Place in hot oven and roast, cooking to the 180 degree temperature in the deepest part of the thigh. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving. This chicken dish works well with a side serving of rice and a green vegetable.

Cuban-Style Gingered Chicken

Serves 4

1 whole chicken, 4 – 6 pounds

2 TBLS finely minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsps ground cumin
2 TBLS brown sugar
¼ cup chicken broth
2 TBLS lime juice
½ cup orange juice
1 TBLS Worcestershire sauce
2 tsps hot sauce
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tsps salt
1 tsp black pepper

In small bowl, combine all marinade ingredients.

Place chicken in large plastic bag, such as an oven roasting bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Seal bag and place in refrigerator 8 hours to overnight, turning occasionally to ensure even distribution of marinade.

Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove chicken from marinade and place, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Dispose of leftover marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in hot oven and roast 20 minutes per pound, or approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes for a four pound chicken. When done, internal temperature of the chicken at the thickest part of the thigh will read 180 F. Remove chicken from oven and rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve sprinkled with minced cilantro.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
670 calories; 37 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 4 g carbohydrate; 75 g protein

A tasty entrée salad, Roast Chicken and Beet Salad is light in flavor and beautiful in color. Start by roasting beets in a hot oven; when cooled, slice to a half-inch thickness. While the beets are cooking, assemble the rest of the salad by slicing pieces of white and dark meat from a pre-cooked, rotisserie chicken, and tossing together slices of fennel, Belgian endive, shallot, parsley and segments of canned mandarin oranges. Make a vinaigrette dressing by combining lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, anchovy paste, capers, salt, pepper and olive oil. For presentation, layer the salad by placing the beets on a plate or serving platter, top with the greens tossed with vinaigrette, and placing chicken slices on over all.

Roast Chicken and Beet Salad

Serves 4

2 cups roasted chicken (pre-cooked rotisserie), sliced

1 TBLS olive oil
1 pound beets, washed and trimmed

1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
2 Belgian endive, cut into thin rings
1 shallot, cut into thin rings
1 can (15 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
1 ½ cups parsley leaves

3 TBLS fresh lemon juice
1 TBLS red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp anchovy paste
1 TBLS capers, drained
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
6 tsps olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Place beets on piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up in the foil. Place on baking sheet and roast in hot oven for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove from oven and cool. Slice beets thinly.

While beets are roasting, combine all ingredients for dressing, except olive oil, in small bowl and set aside. In large serving bowl, combine all ingredients for salad.

When ready to serve, whisk olive oil into dressing and combine well. Toss two-thirds of vinaigrette with salad ingredients. Place beets on top of salad. Top with slices of chicken. Drizzle remaining salad dressing over chicken slices.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
420 calories; 16 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 47 g carbohydrate; 27 g protein