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Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Twofer: Roast Chicken with Fresh Rosemary & Chicken Stock to Use Later

Every home cook has one foolproof recipe. Mine is a roasted chicken with fresh rosemary. Easy to make and, with just one more step, the recipe produces a quart of homemade chicken stock.

Rubbing on olive oil and seasoning the outside with fresh rosemary, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper adds layers of flavor to the chicken as it roasts.

The chicken can be prepped ahead, trussed and seasoned, then wrapped in plastic wrap, put into a Ziploc bag, and either refrigerated or frozen. What I've learned with beef and chicken is that seasoned oil protects the meat from being effected by freezing.

Prepared this way, even the most ordinary supermarket chicken will taste good. Finding a better quality chicken will improve the flavors. Antibiotic-free chickens should always be preferred for health reasons, although I'm not entirely certain that you can taste the difference. In my experience there's no question that a Kosher chicken and free range, organic chickens do taste better. The meat is more tender, the flavor "cleaner." In Los Angeles, Trader Joe's carries several varieties of high quality chickens, as do upscale markets like Gelson's, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats. The best place to buy the freshest, healtiest chickens is at a local farmers' markets. In our neighborhood, Lily's Farm sells the freshest eggs and chickens at the Santa Monica and Palisades's Farmers' Markets. The prices for these chickens vary greatly: $1.29/lb at Ralph's to $3.75/lb for Lilly's. If you can afford it, you'll taste the difference.

Roast Chicken with Rosemary

1 whole chicken, 3 ½-4 ½ lbs., washed, pat dried
Fresh rosemary, a 2" sprig, washed, the leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly julienned
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Line the bottom of a roasting pan with tin foil to help with clean up. Put a small rack on top of the tin foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With kitchen twine, tie the legs together and the wings. Rub the olive oil all over the chicken, season with sea salt, black pepper, garlic, and the rosemary leaves. Put the chicken on the rack breast side down and put in the oven for 60 minutes.

Using tongs, turn the chicken over and return to the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and check for doneness: the legs should move easily and the juices should run clear. If needed to make the skin crisp, roast a final 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. If you're going to make a gravy, now's the time to transfer the pan drippings to a small sauce pan, add a pat of butter and 3 tablespoons of chicken stock and quickly reduce.

The chicken can be presented whole or cut apart so the pieces are easier to serve and can be served with a great many side dishes. A plain green salad with the chicken is perfect for a simple meal. Adding roasted vegetables, like potatoes, string beans, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts, makes a feast. If you want a gravy, that's easy enough, just make a simple reduction of the pan drippings, a pat of sweet butter, and a few tablespoons of chicken stock. Delicious.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 2 hours.

Homemade Chicken Stock

To make the chicken stock, just gather up all the bones and put them into a large pot with 3 quarts of water. Simmer for 60 minutes. Strain out the bones and discard. Refrigerate the stock. In the morning, peel off the fat and discard. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days or, put into pint sized Ziploc bags, for several months in the freezer. Use the stock to make sauces or soups.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 60 minutes.

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