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Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers: Lesson Four

By Chef Ivan Flowers,

So, I have now covered mirepoix, glazes and compound butters. For this cooking class, we are going to utilize all that you have learned, plus learn a new technique, roasting.

What is roasting? It is simply cooking food in the oven. Yes, really, that is it! Why do we roast? Because when food is roasted, it becomes wonderfully brown and caramelized. Carmelization equals flavor. It imparts a nuttiness and depth to the food. You can roast just about anything: meats, fish, vegetables and poultry. Today we are going to apply the technique of roasting to chicken.

As simple as roasting can be, there still are a few tips I can share to make sure you are successful. Firstly, always preheat the oven. If you place food to be roasted in an oven that is still reaching temperature, you will get food that is unevenly cooked. For example, a chicken that has burnt skin and is still raw inside.

Secondly, keep skin on meats covered during most of the roasting time. I know what you are thinking, “What about that wonderful browning?!” Yes, we want that, but if we leave a chicken uncovered through the entire time it needs to roast the skin will become too brown and dry out. So we uncover the chicken during last half hour of cooking. This will ensure a beautifully brown skin without drying.

Thirdly, invest in a good roasting pan and rack. We roast meats on a rack so that the bottom of the meat is not sitting in its own juices. That would result in a roasted top and a poached bottom.

Fourthly, ideally let larger proteins sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before roasting. Trust me, it is perfectly safe and allowing that meat to warm-up a bit will make for much more even cooking.

Finally, when roasting proteins it is imperative that after removing them from the oven, you let them rest. We rest proteins so that those fabulous juices stay in the meat and don’t end up running out all over the cutting board. Resting lets the natural juices settle back into the meat. Rest proteins without bones, uncovered, for at least ten minutes. Meat with a bone rest uncovered for twenty minutes.

Now, let’s roast a chicken!

Before you do anything, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, take your chicken (for this recipe use a four pound bird) out of the fridge and place in the sink. Now, here is where those three previous lessons come in to play.

Instead of a traditional rack, we are going to roast our chicken on a rack made out of a mirepoix. You will need six large carrots, six large stalks of celery, one large white onion diced and 6 whole peeled garlic cloves. Lay out the six stalks of celery lengthwise in the bottom of your roasting pan.

Next, lay the carrots on top of the celery, in the opposite direction or across the width of the pan. What you want to do is create a tic-tac-toe pattern with these vegetables. Then in the open spaces between the carrots and celery sprinkle the diced onion and garlic. There, the rack is complete. Set the pan aside and let’s move onto getting the chicken ready to roast.

We are going to make a compound butter to put under the skin of the chicken. Use ½ pound unsalted butter, softened. Place the softened butter in a bowl. Add 2 tsp. fresh chopped basil, 2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme and 1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary. Now add ½ tsp. granulated garlic.

We are using granulated garlic because it distributes evenly through the butter and there will be no large bits of raw garlic.

Next add 2 tsp. lemon zest and ½ tsp. sea salt. Mix together well. Normally I would tell you to put this butter in the fridge, but we want it soft because we are going to put it under the chicken skin. At this point, reserve ¼ cup of the compound butter to be used in the glaze.

Using your finger or a knife, carefully pull the skin covering the chicken breast away from the meat creating a pocket. Slather the compound butter generously into this pocket. When we do this, we are imparting flavor and moistness to the meat of the chicken. Please remove any rings before you do this.

If you don’t remove them, your rings will tear that delicate chicken skin. If it does tear? Don’t worry. Simply use a toothpick to bind it back together.

In the cavity of the bird, place six whole peeled garlic cloves, 2 sprigs of rosemary, ½ a lemon, ½ an orange and ½ a lime. Why do we do this? Just like we want to impart flavor to the breast meat with the compound butter, we want to impart flavor throughout the chicken. Putting aromatics in the cavity is what does this.

Place the chicken on your mirepoix rack and rub olive oil all over the skin, then salt and pepper. Again, we are developing flavor at every stage of cooking. Loosely cover the breast with foil. Now place chicken on rack in preheated oven and add ½ an inch water or chicken stock to the pan. We do this to add some extra moisture to the bird. As the water/stock heats in the oven it will create a steam that will prevent the bird from drying out.

The chicken will need to cook about 90 minutes or until the internal temperature (taken in thigh, not touching bone) reaches 155 degrees. We will remove foil and glaze during last 30 minutes of cooking.

For glaze, use reserved compound butter. Place in a saucepan and add 2 tbsp. white vinegar, 1 tbsp. sweet chili, juice of one orange and juice of one lime. Heat glaze over medium low heat for ten minutes than keep over low heat until ready to use.

During last 30 minutes of cooking, remove foil from breast and put oven at 450 degrees. Brush chicken with glaze every five minutes. When skin is nicely browned and crispy and internal temperature has reached 155 degrees remove from oven and let rest for ten minutes. Enjoy!

Wow! You made a roast chicken. Now you can use these same tips and techniques to roast other foods. As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.

Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.

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