Friday, July 6, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Rotisserie Chicken

There's something magical about rotisserie chicken. If you watch it while it spins, you'll see that the juices that come out don't just drip off - they roll around outside the bird, basting it as it cooks. The same is true inside the bird, as the juices baste the bird from the inside as well. Whatever herbs or flavorings you put inside the chicken will flavor the whole chicken.

That self-basting can lead to some interesting patterns of browning, but you end up with a crisp skin and incredibly moist bird.

Of course, it helps if you start with a good-quality chicken. I used to think it didn't matter that much - chicken is chicken - but I recently saw the light. There's a huge difference between conventionally-chilled chickens (water-chilled) and air-chilled chickens.

Huge, I tell you.

I can coax a cheap chicken into tasting good, but an air-chilled chicken cooked the same way will be so much better. No doubt. I'm convinced. And of course I found my air-chilled chicken at Whole Foods.

Chicken cooked on the rotisserie is simple, and you can change the flavors any way you like. I tend to start with lemon and then add an herb. This time it was rosemary. But I also love thyme, sage, or oregano. Lime and cilantro is good, too. Or skip the citrus and use onion and garlic with your herb of choice.

The hardest thing about cooking on the rotisserie is getting the bird on the spit so it's somewhat centered in terms of weight, and so it's securely fastened. If it gets loose and starts spinning on the spit, you risk having a bird that's unevenly cooked. And trying to re-secure a hot bird isn't fun. I know. I've done it.

Smaller chickens are easier to secure on a spit, so if you've got a few extra people to feed, consider two small birds rather than one big one. And if you're not sure of your technique, don't be afraid to do a little extra tying to make sure the bird won't move. If might not look picture-perfect when it's spinning, but once you cut it up for serving, no one will know.

Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your rotisserie gets (you might not have much control in terms of heat) as well as how big your bird is. The best bet is to check the temperature at 45 minutes, assume the cooking time will be an hour, and plan for longer cooking, if necessary. Before cutting into the bird, you'll want to let it rest for at least 15 minutes, so take that into account, as well.

My grill came with a rotisserie as part of its standard equipment, but you can buy rotisserie kits that you can attach to your current grill. It's not a very complicated piece of equipment. The just make sure the heat isn't directly under the food you're cooking.

Lemon-Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken

1 chicken
1 lemon
3 sprigs rosemary
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste 

Ir there are giblets in the chicken, remove them. Trim off any excess fat.

Cut the lemon in half lengthwise and put the lemon inside the chicken, with the cut sides facing away from each other. Place the rosemary inside the chicken.

Put the chicken on the skewer and secure it. Sprinkle it all over the outside with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Attach the spit to the rotisserie and turn it on (according to manufacturer's instructions).

Cook until the exterior of the chicken is browned and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees. The temperature will continue to rise at least another 5 degrees as the chicken rests. You can, if you prefer, cook it to a higher temperature. It should take about an hour, but check it with a thermometer to be sure.

Remove the spit from the rotisserie, remove the chicken from the spit, and let it rest at least 15 minutes before cutting it up for serving.