MauiJim has been whining for chicken for weeks. WHINING! LIKE A BIG FAT BABY! Since a day or so after he ate all of the last batch of LunaCafe’s Spicy Fried Chicken, in fact.
“When are you going to make chicken again?” (simple request)
“I really love your chicken.” (flattery)
“You make the best chicken in the entire world.” (more flattery)
“How come there’s no chicken around here?” (guilt)
“I’m going to the grocery store to buy a roast chicken.” (more guilt)
“I did a keyword search and chicken is the number 1 food people search for.” (cunning!)
In case you missed all the hoopla on Twitter, our fried chicken won the Twitter 2009 Fried Chicken Throw Down. That post, however, was no slam dunk. I salt-cured, coated, and fried 3 batches of chicken before I was satisfied with the end result. Thus, I really didn’t want to look at another chicken for awhile.
But it’s been a month, I love my man, and my man wants himself some chicken. Plus I must share this recipe with you while you still have plenty of summer picnics and twilight dinners on the patio ahead.
This is the kind of easy and memorable main course that’s perfect when temperatures begin to soar. It has a fresh summertime feel. It can just as easily be part of a potluck buffet or the star of a more formal meal. In the latter case, I recently paired it with crumb coated wild mushroom and risotto cakes and the tiniest green beans bathed in brown butter and roasted garlic. It would also pair wonderfully with crispy, cheesy fried polenta. Or with a lightly dressed salad with a few crunchy, freshly made croutons.
The magic here is in the dry cure. Don’t be tempted to skip it or to shorten the specified curing period. It takes at least 24 hours for the salt and spices to fully permeate the meat, resulting in the most flavorful and tender roast chicken imaginable. I think the effect is even more delectable after 48 hours.
For a 5-page dissertation on the dry-cure method, Judy Roger’s book, The Zuni Café Cookbook, is a must read. Like Judy, I was taught that salting meat before cooking it makes it tough, and I passed on that malarkey to countless culinary students over the years. But now I know better.
These days, I never cook chicken without dry curing or wet brining it first. MauiJim can tell the difference.
Fire-Spiced Chicken with Honey-Lemon Glaze
This roast chicken is succulent, herbaceous, and a little spicy, with a sweet-tart, caramelized glaze.
2 whole chicken fryers, cut into 4 breast-wing pieces and 4 thigh-drumstick pieces (remaining carcass reserved for making stock)
1 tablespoon smoked or regular Spanish paprika (mild)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Honey Lemon Glaze
½ cup wildflower honey (love Mech Apiaries Meadow honey, available at Pike Place Market)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Two or more days before roasting, dry cure the chicken.
In a small bowl, combine all of the Dry Cure ingredients, and mix well.
Rinse the chicken quarters. Remove any extraneous fat, and pat completely dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle the dry cure mixture over the chicken pieces liberally (but don’t go overboard).
Arrange the chicken in a single layer on an wedged cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and foil, and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
To glaze and roast the chicken, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and pat each piece dry.
Arrange chicken pieces on a lightly oiled wire rack set over a foil-lined, edged baking sheet.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the honey, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.
Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze evenly over each chicken piece.
Roast at 350° for about 40 minutes, adding more glaze to the chicken pieces every 10 minutes or so.
Note The USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service recommends cooking chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165°. I usually aim for 175 degrees. Test with an instant read thermometer at the meatiest part of the thigh. White meat cooks more quickly than dark meat, so remove the breast sections prior to the leg sections if necessary.
Serve hot or at room temperature.