Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thanksgiving Roasted Hen with Sage

Although I don't usually celebrate Thanksgiving like most North American families do, by throwing a huge family dinner mainly composed of roasted turkey, yam and other goodies, I do enjoy preparing roasted chicken and turkey. It wasn't the case a few months back when I thought that roasting was such a lengthy cooking process to get perfectly cooked poultry that's juicy, tender and flavourful. From past experience, turkey meat I tasted was often dry and bland. Because friends would always tell me that the key to preparing a plump and juicy turkey is to continuously baste it, which can take hours, the idea to even try to prepare one completely turned me off. At last, a friend of mine shared her secret with me. The trick is literally "in the bag". Roasting poultry in a brown paper grocery bag creates a steamy environment that cooks the meat quickly. Two weeks ago, I had tried this roasting method with 2 huge turkey legs and the result was extremely moist and flavourful turkey. This week, I'm using a regular sized grain-fed chicken, which took me only 20 minutes to prepare, and the rest was taken care of by the oven.

Recipe "au pif":
1 whole grain-fed chicken or 10lb turkey
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter (or 1/2 part butter and 1/2 part olive oil)
1 regular brown paper lunch bag (for chicken) or 1 brown paper grocery bag (for turkey)
2 cups baby carrots (washed)
2 large potatoes cut in big pieces
1 small onion, quartered
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sage leaves (10 for turkey)
3 garlic cloves, mashed (6 for turkey)
1/4 cup lemon zest
1 tbsp spicy salt
1 tbsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried chili flakes
6 lemon peels
2 tbsp flour

For even roasting, let chicken (or turkey) sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.

Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 325F.

Apply melted butter to brown paper bag with a pastry brush (IMPORTANT: bag must be thoroughly greased throughout so that it doesn't burn and it will seal in the steam).

Pour in about 1 tbsp of the melted butter inside the cavity of the chicken (or turkey) and apply melted butter all over the skin with a pastry brush.

Season inside out with spicy salt, pepper, paprika and red chili flakes.

Place inside cavity garlic cloves, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprigs rosemary, onion quarters and 3 lemon peels. Place 1 sage leave under skin of breast chicken (or turkey) of each breast and leg (4 sage leaves in total).

Place potatoes and carrots, remaining thyme, rosemay, sage and lemon peels in brown paper bag, in a large baking dish, and set chicken (or turkey) on top, breast-side up. Double fold bag's opening and paper clip closed. Roast chicken for about 1 1/2 hours (or 2 1/2 hours for the turkey), undisturbed.

Remove from oven, open bag; be careful of steam inside of bag. Return chichen or turkey into the oven and broil for about 10 minutes for a darker brown colour.

When finished, remove chicken (or turkey) from the bag and place on serving platter with the carrots and potatoes.

While chicken (or turkey) rests, pour the drippings from the bag and the baking dish in a pan. Add a bit of chicken stock if needed. Blend in flour and stir until mixture is golden and becomes thick, over medium-high heat.

Serves 4. (Turkey serves 6-8 people).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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