December 30, 2002

Chicken and Duck Fat

Tonight I made one of my favorite weeknight in the winter dinners. It's quick and easy and turns out (usually) great. The "quick" part only refers to the amount of time you spend in the kitchen -- you have to start three or four hours before you eat.

I brined a chicken in about a gallon of water and a cup of kosher salt. I added some thyme and sage and other chicken-appropriate flavorings to the water. After two hours in the brine, I dried off the chicken and let the skin air dry out for another 45 minutes. Then, I coated the chicken in a layer of rendered duck fat -- actually the fat I used came off of foie gras. The chicken went onto a V-rack in a roasting pan.

While the oven was coming up to 375, I medium cubed 4 or 5 small baking potatoes and placed them in the bottom of the pan, underneath and around the chicken. Baked for around an hour and 15 minutes. Towards the end, I hit the convection switch on the oven to ensure even browning (could probably have done this sooner, and wish I had -- for this chicken, which was on the small side, I also should have roasted at a slightly higher temperature for slightly less time.).

Pulled the chicken off to rest (and drained out any juices back into the pan). I removed the V-rack from the pan and returned the roasting pan back to the oven, cranking the heat up to 450. Every few minutes I shook the pan to make sure the potatoes were browning evenly. After 5 or 10 minutes, they were done, and I pulled the pan out. I scooted the potatoes to one side of the pan, tilted the pan, and left a heavy weight on the other side to keep them draining. Let them drain while I carved the chicken. Salted the potatoes. Plated with the chicken. Ate.

There are a million variations on this one. The seasoning is one. I've done BBQish, Mexican influenced, heavy on the rosemary versions. I've put spices into the potatoes. Sometimes I make a sauce -- light brown stock, or heavy dark stock with red wine, or white wine and mustard. I've used all kinds of potatoes on the bottom. Added mushrooms to them. I don't alway have duck fat, so I've used olive oil, butter, rendered chicken fat, bacon drippings. When I'm in a hurry I only brine for 30 minutes. Sometimes I don't brine at all and just heavily salt the chicken.

The only real trick to this recipe is not stirring the potatoes while they are cooking. Halfway through the cooking they will be soft, but the outsides not yet crispy enough to keep them together. If you try to stir them at this point, they'll just mush-up.

Posted by dowdy at December 30, 2002 10:38 PM