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Martha's Cooking School
Wednesday, March 15: Roasting 101
How to Roast
Roasting is one of the easiest and most flavorful methods of cooking. It typically involves cooking in an oven, uncovered, at a high heat without any liquids such as wine, water, or stock. The result for meats, poultry, or fish, is a delicious golden brown exterior; for vegetables, it's a crisp skin. Whatever food you roast will have a moist flavorful interior. In this everyday cooking lesson, Martha explains the basics of the kinds of food and the proper equipment to use for roasting.
What to Roast
Roasting, which typically begins at a higher temperature, creates a crisp skin on vegetables or a browned skin on meats, poultry, and fish. Once crisped or browned, reduce the temperature as necessary and roast until cooked through. A general rule of thumb when roasting: the smaller the roast, the higher the temperature.
Be sure to season well with salt and pepper. This accentuates the natural flavor and sweetness which comes from roasting. When roasting vegetables, cut pieces into uniform size to ensure even cooking.
Some seasonings to use that highlight natural flavors in roasting include:
* Fresh herbs: thyme, chervil, tarragon, and rosemary
When roasting vegetables, fish, or poultry-ingredients that are less fatty than meat-use an oil or moistening agent to prevent burning or sticking, and to impart a richer flavor. For oil and moisturizing agents, you can use:
* Olive oil
* Melted or softened butter
When roasting meats and poultry, baste using juices that have accumulated in the roasting pan. An instant-read thermometer is invaluable, but never let the thermometer touch the bone, or you will get an inaccurate reading. Remove the meat from the oven as soon as the temperature of the roast reaches 10 degrees below the desired final temperature, since the meat will continue to cook out of the oven. Let the meat or poultry rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving so that the internal juices have an opportunity to distribute evenly. Use a conventional rack in a roasting pan to prevent sticking and burning; you may also use a layer of bones or aromatic vegetables placed in the bottom of the pan.
A heavy-bottomed roasting pan with strong handles is a worthwhile investment. When roasting meats and poultry, these pans go directly from the oven to the stovetop to make gravy and other sauces using the delicious browned bits that collect at the bottom, also called fond.
Recipes for Roasting
Now that you've learned the essential lessons of how to roast, try your hand at making some of Martha's favorite recipes: Roast Chicken and Roasted Vegetables.
One (6 pound) roasting chicken
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
3 large garlic cloves, crushed, plus 2 cloves thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 cup homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
1. Let the chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425°. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from the chicken if there is one. Remove giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.
2. Using the palm of your hand, roll the lemon back and forth while pressing down. Pierce the entire surface of the lemon with a fork. Insert crushed garlic, thyme, and lemon into chicken’s cavity. Gently loosen the skin from both sides of the breast, being careful to not tear the skin; place sliced garlic and tarragon under skin. Place chicken, breast-side up, on the bed of onion slices. Bring the legs forward, cross them, and tie them together using about 18 inches of kitchen twine.
3. Spread softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in oven, and roast until skin is deep golden-brown and juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, which will read 180° when done, and then the deepest part of the thigh, which will read 190°; be careful to not touch any bones with the thermometer, which will give you a false reading.
4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes so juices will settle. Meanwhile, pour pan drippings into a shallow bowl or a fat separator, leaving the onions in the pan. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour remaining drippings and any juices that have collected under the chicken back into the roasting pan. Place pan on stove, over medium-high heat, and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, increasing heat to high, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits; cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
5. Strain gravy into a small bowl, pressing down on onions to extract any remaining liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard the lemon, garlic, and herbs from the cavity of the chicken and underneath the skin on the breast.
6. Carve the chicken on the same cutting board using a sharp knife and a large fork. To remove the legs, pull one away from the body; use the knife to find the joint that connects the leg to the body, and sever it. Cut the thigh away from the drumstick at the second joint. To remove the breasts, cut straight down between the breasts, following the contour of the rib cage, until you hit the wishbone. Cut through the joint where it meets the breastbone. Arrange pieces on a serving platter, and serve immediately with gravy.
Note: Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living, September 1997
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