Although I was a vegetarian for over 25 years, I sure do love chicken. We keep kosher in a town where there is no kosher butcher, and sometimes the only Empire available is a whole chicken, which is great for soup, but trickier to cook in the oven, at least for me – I often end up under or overcooking it.
I have finally landed on a fool-proof way of preparing whole chicken to recommend, although I must warn you that it requires the purchase of a new tool. I have a very small kitchen, and am not one to load up on extra gadgets, especially if I’m likely to want two of them – one for dairy and one for meat. But I guarantee you that a clay pot is worth the investment, even if all you were going to do was cook chicken in it. The chicken comes out impossibly moist and tender – falling off the bone, as they say. (Don’t they?)
Every clay pot recipe begins by soaking the pot in cold water for at least 15 minutes. For chicken, I like to lay some carrots and or/halved onions on the bottom of the pot, so the chicken doesn’t end up soaking in its own, copious, grease. Then I stuff some flavors in the cavity – tonight it was half a lemon, 6 cloves of garlic and 2 sprigs of rosemary. Rub a little olive oil on the skin, salt and pepper, and place the chicken in the pot. Cover it with the top of the clay pot, and place it in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400 and check on the chicken (if it’s around 3.5 pounds) in about an hour. When the temperature on a meat thermometer is up to about 150, I like to remove the lid of the pot so that the chicken can brown a little, but not so long that the meat has a chance to dry out. Remove when the thermometer hits 165.
Oh, is this good.