Ragazzi, did any of you feel a smidgen of alarm at the word "ciao" above? Well, please do not: Annalena is not leaving you. Well, she is, for a short time.
After thinking about it, and tossing the idea about, for what seem to be decades , she and the Guyman are about to embark on their first trip to Italy. Two weeks, of traversing "the boot" as it were, from Sorrento to Venice. Annalena will be out of the kitchen, except for one demonstration, in Assisi during the next two weeks. So if you notice a rather large increase in peace and quiet, now you know. And should you hear stories of growing unrest between Italy and the United States, you will have an explanation for that as well. We will all see each other again, very soon.
For now, Annalena returns to a subject you all know is dear to her heart: the perfect roast chicken. If you are a habitue of this blog, you know that Annalena's favorite is the Zuni chicken, from Zuni Cafe' in San Francisco. She has tried others, including the one which many consider to be the best in NYC, which is that of Jonathan Waxman, at Barbuto. Annalena continues to favor Zuni. Barbuto's is second, but in Annalena's mind, the contest is not close. A very far third, is a roast chicken she learned from one of the Martha Stewart shows.
Well, a few weeks ago, Annalena read an article in the NY Times with another approach to roast chicken. It appealed to her , because it has several of the attributes of the Zuni chicken. She tried it.
How can she put this? It's going to be a judgement call. Annalena still favors Zuni, as does the Guyman. But, out of this recipe, she learned something: the bird you get from following this recipe is amazingly moist. If Annalena has a criticism of the Zuni chicken, it does seem a bit dry at times. That's the tradeoff for the crisp skin. The bird which you will be reading about now, is not so crispy, and many of you will understand why as you read the recipe. You trade that for some of the juiciest meat on a bird you will eat. So, without further chitchat, let's look at this recipe.
Much of good chicken roasting is about preparation, and we are not talking about an exception here. Put your oven to 500 degrees, and then, slip your skillet into the oven. No oil, no nothing, just your skillet. NO NON STICKS. The original recipe calls for a cast iron pan, and if you have one, by all means. Annalena had her big old cephalon pan, and used that. Leave it in there.... for 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes. Remember that, and be careful as we move along.
While the pan is heating, get your bird out of the refrigerator, and bring it to room temperature. Get a sharp knife, and cut into the legs at the thighs. You will find a bone/muscle combination, and you want to cut through the skin and then that joint, so that the legs flap back. There IS a reason for this. Before you put the bird in the pan, slip some lemon quarters into the cavity, salt it, and now....
PLEASE PROTECT YOUR HANDS. Take out the skillet , put the bird, breast side up in, and then pour a tablespoon of olive oil over it. Again, with your hands protected, get the pan into the oven, and...
do nothing. For 35 minutes. Annalena is serious. Do nothing. And after 35 minutes, turn off the oven, and let the bird rest in it for another five. Now, take it out, and let it rest on the stovetop, for another ten, before you start cutting into it.
If you compare this to the Zuni chicken, you will see that (i) the technique is simpler (ii) it takes less time to cook and (iii) you add oil. The shorter cooking time undoubtedly results in the juicier, less crispy bird, and the oil certainly contributes to the less crispy skin. It is up to you: Annalena is going to try a hybrid of her zuni recipe, and this one, tomorrow. If she has time to give you one more recipe (and she does have one, timed to the rhubarb time of year, and at the Guyman's request, she will let you know about the experiment. Briefly, she intends to salt her bird overnight, as with Zuni's recipe, and to follow this one except for the olive oil. We shall see.
Carry on, ragazzi. Keep on cooking, write to Annalena if you are so inclined, and never lose your enthusiasm for la cucina.