I wish I could say that this beautiful golden chicken pictured above is one that I cooked. Alas, it is not. Above is a photo of the cookbook recipe I was trying to make. The chicken I made tasted delicious, but it was not the stuff of magazine photo spreads (see below – I started to carve into hence the big slit)
In continuation of my Cookbook Challenge, I made a roasted pork tenderloin and a whole roasted chicken. Without really noticing, the two dishes had most of the same seasoning and flavors, but then again they both came from Williams-Sonoma cookbooks (I failed to notice that until just now). I made them both anyway and they were delicious. I followed the recipes as instructed, but found that there were a few things I wish the recipes had mentioned. I knew better from previous cooking experience, but decided to follow the recipes nonetheless. Below I will share with you three secrets I use for roasting meat.
1. Start with a hot pan. Whether you are searing the meat for color and flavor or simply jump-starting the cooking process, a hot pan definitely improves the flavor of the dish and can reduce time spent on the dish. The recipe I used for the roasted chicken called for preheating the (oven-safe) pan on the stove on high heat before placing the chicken in the pan and immediately transferring it to the oven. (If you are using a pyrex dish or something not designed for the stove-top, preheat in the oven for 5 minutes.) The pork recipe did not call for preheating, though I have made pork tenderloin much faster and better before by first pan-searing the pork on all sides and finishing it in the oven.
2. Don’t be afraid to use a little fat. Some cuts of meat are leaner than others, but to get a good sear on anything you are going to need at least some fat. Even if the meat has some fat in it, you’ll want to use a little because it won’t release that fat right away. If you’re searing a pork tenderloin start with a quick swirl of oil (1 Tablespoon) in the pan as it’s heating up. Similarly with the chicken, make sure to lightly oil your pan before dropping the chicken in. The chicken will give off some fat later in the cooking process, but once that dry chicken hits a dry pan, it’s a lot more likely to stick and result in the bare, skinless look that I got on top (the chicken was breast side down in the pan to start).
3. Give time and space to brown. When cooking multiple pieces of meat in the same pan (or even vegetables, you have to give them some space in order for them to really caramelize (i.e. brown). If the pieces are too close together, they will create steam instead, which will cook the meat, but not give it the depth of flavor that caramelization brings. You also want to give your meat time. If you put it in the pan and after a minute pick it up to check on it, you won’t see much. Browning takes time. A hot pan, fat, and space will help of course, but without allowing the meat to sit in the hot pan enough, you risk it either sticking (time will help to release it) or not developing that beautiful golden-brown color.
Both of these meats including a delicious spice rub that can either be rubbed on in advance or right before cooking. I hope you’ll put these helpful tips to use. Roasting meat is not that hard and is delicious when hot and fresh from the oven. Give these recipes a try! Bon appetit!
Roasted Herb-rubbed Chicken
adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Entertaining
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. fresh chopped rosemary
1 T. fennel seeds
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3.5-4 lb. chicken
With a spice grinder or mini food processor, pulse the spices together into a coarse paste. Rub all over a whole chicken that has been patted dry and any inner parts removed. Refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
Remove the chicken from the fridge one hour before roasting. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet on the stove over high until hot. Put a splash of oil in to keep the chicken from sticking. Turn off the heat. Place the chicken breast side up in the pan and immediately put in the oven. Cook for an hour or until chicken is 170 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Add 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth to the hot skillet and heat over medium low heat, scraping the drippings from the chicken to incorporate. Cook until reduced by half and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Taste and adjust as needed. Serve on top or alongside the chicken.
Roasted Herb-rubbed Pork Tenderloin
1.5 T. fennel seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 T. olive oil
1 lb. pork tenderloin
Grate 1.5 tsp. of zest and juice 1 T. of the lemon, being careful to avoid the seeds. Lightly crush or chop the fennel seeds. Mix together the lemon juice, zest, and all of the other ingredients except the pork (including the olive oil). Rub all over the pork and let sit 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425. In an oven-safe skillet heat a splash of olive over medium to med-high heat. After a few minutes, add the pork and allow to sear for a good 3 to 5 minutes. Using tongs carefully flip the pork to sear the other side and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. You can sear the skinnier sides too if desired, though this is not necessary. Turn off the heat and transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking the pork. Cook for another 12-15 minutes or until the thickest part registers 145-150. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes before cutting. (Here’s a tip: Put a hot mitt on the handle of the pan you used to cook the pork so that you remember that it is hot from the oven!) Slice on the diagonal into 1/2 slices and serve.