Cluck, Cluck? Chicken for Din-din!

Photo by Jim Bahn from Flickr.com

For the fifth night in row in Costa Rica, a fan spat dead bugs onto the sweaty bodies of my husband and myself as a rooster crowed his domination over his hens at all hours of the dry-season. We were on vacation trying to relax, but it was hell trying to sleep with those chickens clucking and crowing outside our bedroom window. My patience with the fowl neared a breaking point. Even as a food, I thought, chickens can be boring and annoying. They are ubiquitous and much too easy to over cook and dry out. Ew. Dry. Chicken. Ew.

But, before I let us pass by this beaked beast, we must remember that these affordable eats are a great low-fat source of protein that protects against low-bone density. Chickies also are a great source of niacin, one of the B vitamins that protects against damage to DNA. Probably most fascinatingly, these fowl is a source of protein that also contains selenium which is important for major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Selenium is also becoming linked to cancer prevention in some research studies.

I’ve included the foolproof recipe I use to roast my birds and dare I say, they are never dry. Or boring. Or annoying. And, the only ones crowing are my guests saying how surprisingly delicious they found the chicken.

Jenna’s Easy Eats Chicken

Serve this with nothing more than a green salad and some crusty bread.

1 plump organic roasting chicken, weighing around 4 lbs.
Olive Oil
10 button mushrooms (more for the bottom of the pan if you like them as much as I do)
White Grape Juice
Salt and ground black pepper
Root vegetables that you like to eat (carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions even whole heads of garlic) cleaned and cut into 2-3 inch knobs.
Fresh herbs, like parsley, sage and thyme, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the bird from the fridge at least an hour before cooking it. Two or three hours at room temp is even better. Place your cut and clean root vegetables and extra mushrooms in a single layer on the bottom of a roasting pan. (Don’t clean the garlic. Don’t even cut it or separate the cloves. Just put the heads in and, once cooked, squeeze out their caramelized yum on your bread during dinner.)

Take off any trussing, and place the bird in a roasting pan. Enlarge the opening of the cavity with your fingers and stuff the bird with as many mushrooms as you can and pour in a hefty palm of salt into the bird. Really. Fret not. While holding over the roasting pan, also fill with cavity with the white grape juice until it runs out of the bird. Place the bird on the root vegetables and pour the remaining juice over the vegetables until the vegetables are nearly covered.

Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bird and sprinkle with a little salt and some pepper as well. Cover the whole roasting pan with tin foil and place in the center of the hot oven and leave for 25-30 minutes. Take off the foil and turn down the oven to 350F, and roast for another 35-50 minutes depending on its size. (For a bigger bird that will require additional cooking time, it is okay to protect the skin with the foil for a little longer.)

A good test for doneness is to pierce that part of the bird where the thigh joins the breast; the juices released should run clear. If you have a thermometer, let the bird reach 160-165F in its thickest part. Keep in mind that doneness for a chicken is 165F, but that the temperature will continue to rise even after you remove it from the oven.

Remove the bird from the oven, cover with tinfoil again as well as a big fluffy bath towel. Really. Leave the bird for 20 minutes to rest before carving.

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