Cider season is in full swing, and I am reposting this oldie but goodie from May 2013. Five and a half years later, I wanted to re-share this fun fall recipe, with a few adjustments and lots of new photos.
I was so intimidated by the thought of cooking a whole chicken – until I tried. Turns out, there is very little more to it than putting a chicken in the oven. It is something I do with regularity now – they are so versatile.
This recipe is a Cooking Club Instant Classic (Hostess: me; Theme: Back to Basics – Cooking Techniques; Date: 05.19.13) and is going in my rotation. The chicken was flavorful and moist, and the cider glaze makes a sauce that is sweet and rich. It was served with zucchini and garlic toast, but would be great on a salad, or perhaps with Spinach Parmesan Cakes! Here it is with grilled sweet potato planks and sautéed spinach.
Really, most sides pair well with roasted chicken.
This recipe brines the chicken, which is different from a marinade. Brines permeate meat (using the chemical properties of salt) to add moisture and flavor, while marinades add flavor the outer layer of meat. Brining will also add sodium, given the amount of salt used. I am not familiar with recipes for roasted chicken that use marinades – how about you? Here is my brining in action:
It is my experience that people try brining and then say it was not really worth the hassle. I guess it is hard to say, unless you make two roasted chickens at once and do a taste test. I will put a side-by-side comparison on my list of things to try, and let you know how it goes! For now, I assure you, this was delicious, and seemed worth the added step.
- 4 cups apple cider, divided (2 cups + 2 cups)
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 organic roasting chicken, ~ 4 lbs
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and cut in half
- 4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- Combine 2 cups apple cider and the next four ingredients in a large pot on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook and stir until the salt dissolves - this will only take a minute once it is boiling.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool completely. Sorry, this takes a little while, but it is important in the next step.
- Take the chicken and rinse it in the sink. Discard anything they put inside the chicken (we do not have to talk about the stuff inside the chicken - just throw it away). Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Take a gallon-sized freezer bag and place it over a medium-sized pot or bowl. Place the chicken in the bag, and ladle in the cider mixture on top. Ladle in as much as you can fit into the bag, and seal the bag. This is when it is important that the liquid is cool - if it is warm, the bag will continue to expand even when sealed. Mess.
- Place the pot and the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 8 hours, and up to a day.
- When you are ready to roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 400.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place the onion halves, parsley, and garlic into cavity. For smaller chickens, you may have to chop the onion into quarters.
- Here is the only part that may be a little tricky. Lift the wing tips up and over the back of the chicken and tuck them under. The best way to describe this is to make it look like the chicken is putting its hands behind its head. Then tie the legs together. Silicone bands, twisted like a pony tail holder, were a bit easier for me to handle, but twine worked fine as well. Perfect. Silicone bands are sold at many cooking stores, but I would call first to make sure they sell them. Twine is more prevalent in stores closer to Thanksgiving, but your butcher may be nice and cut you a piece of theirs, if the store doesn't sell it.
- Place chicken on a broiler pan, or on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 175. I was nervous that it was just a chicken on a rack and would burn or get dried out. My fears were unsubstantiated - do not worry!
- While the chicken is roasting, heat the remaining 2 cups apple cider in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, or until it reduces by about half (so you have one cup of concentrated cider glaze). Set this aside until the chicken is done.
- Remove from oven (do not turn oven off). Using tongs, carefully remove and discard the skin that has crisped up. Using a pastry brush (I prefer silicone), baste the chicken with half of the reduced cider and return it to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and baste with remaining cider reduction.
- Let the chicken rest for a few minutes.
- Pour the drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan into a container - a small pitcher if you have one, but any container is fine. Put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the fat solidifies at the top. Spoon that off and toss it. What you have left is awesome cider sauce.
- Slice the chicken and serve with the cider sauce. Delicious.