Sunday, October 16, 2011

Roasted Chicken over Potatoes and Fennel

Roasting a chicken for Sunday dinner is always a good idea. With a simple brine, and roasted over a pan full of potatoes and fennel, you are guaranteed a succulent, juicy chicken, and a well developed, roasted side dish, all made in one receptacle. In our case, we are roasting a Redbro Freedom Ranger chicken, picked up from Jen and Pete's Backyard birds. The specific variety of bird we are using has a more even distribution of dark meat to white meat, a characteristic of this heritage breed. Frankly, the distribution of white to dark meat makes it taste more like a real bird. It has more of a mineral rich flavor and is generally richer, more savory and less bland than the Perdue you're picking up at Market Basket.
Freedom Ranger, ready for oven
So start out with a simple brine. We like to use enough water to cover our bird in a large pot, maybe around a gallon and a half to two gallons of water. Then it's a matter of using a ratio of approximately 3 parts salt to 1 part sugar. So maybe 1 cup of salt to about 3/4 cups of sugar for this size bird. The bird was left to soak for about 4 hours, and then taken out of the brine and allowed to dry on a pan in the refrigerator for about forty-five minutes.
While the bird dries, you can half a whole bunch of beautiful potatoes. Last week, I picked up about a pound and  half of lovely multi-colored new potatoes, each about the size of a golf ball, from the Kimball Fruit Farm Stand. We also roughly sliced a big bulb of fennel picked up from Milk and Honey Green Grocer in Salem. All our veggies were tossed with a touch of olive oil, and parked into a large saute pan. The chicken went on top. Add a bit of oil to massage into the chicken, and liberally salt the chicken skin. When ready, the pan of chicken, potatoes, and fennel can go into a preheated 425 degree oven for twenty minutes. When your timer goes off, reduce the heat to 375 degrees, and allow the chicken to cook until the juices run clear (for us this was approximately forty minutes longer).
Sunday dinner is served
Crispy chicken skin
Crispy, golden brown, salty chicken skin is an irresistible component of this dish. Dig a little further, and you have succulent, juicy morsels of dark and white meat to pick apart. Dig a little deeper, and there are those potatoes that are just so satisfying to bite into. Not to mention, the flavors of the chicken fat has been allowed to penetrate each and every potato and all those lovely liquorish kissed slices of fennel. Another fine, keep it simple Sunday dinner. 

1 heritage breed chicken. NOTE: Definitely pay a visit to Jen and Pete's website.
1 1/2 pounds of new potatoes
1 bulb of fennel
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Simmering chicken
PS. Right now, we have the pleasure of smelling a lovely chicken stock simmering on the stove. Any time that you choose to cook a whole chicken, save the carcass, and take the time afterwards to roast the chicken carcass with oil, rosemary, flat leaf parsley, three stalks of celery, two carrots, and a large onion. Then add in enough water to fill the entire pot. When you're finished, after hours of watching the stock come to life, you'll have over fifteen cups of beautiful stock. 
Last time I checked, chicken stock can get a little expensive. If you make your own from something you're just going to be throwing in the trash, I promise it'll be better than something you buy from the store, and you'll get to enjoy a savory aroma warming your home for at least a few hours on a cool fall evening.

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