Chicken

Chicken

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The wide availability of chicken fillets (skinless, boneless half-breasts) or suprêmes makes it one of the most convenient meats. It has always been one of the most adaptable: as good cold as hot, as ready for a picnic, to provide cocktail tid-bits or a speedy meal for one, as to appear, superbly sauced, at a dinner party.

You can be reasonably confident that packaged chicken will be tender. In unpackaged chicken, check that the end of the breastbone will bend readily when pressed – the sign of a young bird.

Organic chicken is the best purchase. Free-range, organic poultry that has been carefully fed and has had time to scratch and peck around the ground rewards with a bird that will taste as it should and has had some sort of a life. Such a bird you pay extra for, but it seems preferable to eat chicken less often and make a meal more special.

What size?: Chickens are sold by weight. Another indication of size is by numbers. A size 12 weighs 1.2 kg, size 15 weighs 1.5 kg, size 16 weighs 1.6 kg, size 18 weighs 1.8 kg, etc. A very young chicken is called a spatchcock and usually weighs 500 g. A small chicken can be grilled or barbecued. A size 12 to 18 or 20 can be roasted, poached or used in the recipes as indicated.

To truss a chicken: Shape the bird neatly with your hands, tucking the neck flap underneath. Take a piece of string and place its centre below the breastbone at the neck end. Bring the ends of the string down over the wings to cross underneath, then up to tie the legs and parson’s nose together.

To joint a chicken: Cut off legs at the joints. Cut either side of backbone and remove. Turn bird over and cut either side of breastbone and discard. Cut each side of chicken in half, removing wings if liked.

Chicken may be cooked in any of the following ways.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients

Method

  1. Roast chicken: Put a little butter and a piece of lemon or a few herbs inside chicken; or, if using stuffing, spoon it loosely into cavity. Truss bird and lay it on its side on a greased rack in a roasting tin. Spread chicken with a little butter and place in a preheated hot oven for 10 minutes. Turn chicken over and continue cooking, turning and basting every 15 minutes. Turn chicken on its back for last 20 minutes of cooking. Allow about 25 minutes’ cooking time per 500 g. Chicken is done when juices run clear if a skewer is inserted in thickest part of thigh near body. Allow chicken to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes before carving. This helps to settle juice back in the meat and makes carving easy. If carved as soon as it is cooked juices run too freely on the plate, making it look rather unappetising. Make clear gravy or thickened gravy to accompany the chicken if desired.
  2. French roast chicken: This method of roasting gives a beautifully moist chicken, and the skin crisps in the last 10–15 minutes of cooking. Put strips of orange peel, tarragon or parsley stalks and a little salt and cracked black pepper inside the chicken. Truss and roast as for roast chicken but add 190 ml chicken stock to the pan at the start of cooking and baste with pan juices every 15 minutes. Add more stock if needed.
  3. Fried chicken: Dust pieces with plain flour and coat with egg and breadcrumbs. Chill for 20 minutes to firm crumbs. Shallow-fry in oil and butter over moderate heat, turning once, until golden-brown and cooked through. Breasts will take about 15 minutes; thicker pieces will take about 25 minutes. Drain on crumpled paper towels.
  4. Poached chicken: Place chicken on its back in a heavy saucepan and add water to come to top of thighs (or just to cover chicken pieces). Add salt, pepper, a few slices of carrot, celery, onion and a few herbs. Cover and simmer gently, just until thigh meat feels tender when tested with a skewer – about 30 minutes for a young bird. Cool in the liquid.
  5. Braised chicken (chicken casserole): Use pieces or a whole, trussed bird. Brown all over in a little butter in a heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole. Remove chicken, add a little sliced carrot, celery and onion to pan and fry until golden. Place chicken on top of vegetables, add a few herbs, salt and freshly ground black pepper and 500 ml water or stock, with a little wine if liked. Cover and simmer on top of stove or in a preheated moderately slow oven until juices run clear when tested with a skewer in the thickest part. Chicken pieces will take about 30 minutes, a whole bird 1 hour or more. Thicken liquid, if liked, with beurre manié at the end of cooking.
  6. Sautéed chicken: Heat a little oil and butter in a heavy frying pan. Add well-dried chicken pieces, a few at a time, sauté on brisk heat until golden on both sides. Replace leg and thigh pieces in pan, cover and cook over low heat for 8 minutes. Add breast and wing pieces, cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Turn and baste several times during cooking.
  7. Grilled chicken: Use very small chickens, or chicken pieces. For whole birds, split in half and cut away back and rib bones. Arrange chicken, skin side down, on a greased rack under a preheated grill. Brush with melted butter and grill, turning once and basting with butter several times. Chicken halves will take 25–30 minutes, pieces 10–15 minutes.
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