Recipes are an important part of cooking and learning to cook, but lately I’ve tried to focus more on technique than on mastering specific dishes. On a recent edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, I was blown away by a rather simple technique for cooking chicken that I had never thought of before. As a part of their Found Recipes series, the original radio mention did come with a recipe, but I ignored that almost entirely for my own version using this interesting technique.
Here’s the rub: you take a whole chicken, split it, and do whatever magic you normally do to season your baked chicken. While you’ve got that going on, you heat up a couple of large cast iron skillets in your oven. You want this really hot because they are going to provide the direct heat source to brown and cook your bird. I didn’t have two 10″ skillets like the article originally called for, but I made do with a 12″ and an 8″.
It hadn’t occurred to me until I was already in the thick of the process how scary it would be. There I was with two cast iron skillets that would sear anything, most especially me, and I had just laid my two chicken halves skin-side down in one. I had coated it with a nice cooking oil, so it immediately starting a-sizzlin’ and a-buzzin’ with activity. Resting the other skillet on top to weigh down and sear the top-side, I realized that I was about to carry the two heaviest pans in my entire kitchen – plus a whole chicken – all stacked one atop the other to an oven built in the wall, just above my head.
I made it without breaking or burning anything, but not a moment too soon.
After 25+ minutes in my 450 degree oven, I took the tower of hell-forged iron and slaughtered beast out once again to find a perfectly cooked, incredibly moist and delicious bird. I couldn’t be more pleased, though I definitely have to figure out a better way to move it from one place to the other. I don’t mind a little adrenaline rush, but I don’t what should be a regular technique in my arsenal to go under-used because I am afraid I will brand myself, you know?
I had seasoned the bird with a lot of Italian things like Basil, which I love, but the accompanying sides were all Southern comfort [insert easy joke about how my evening was spent eating an entire chicken and drinking lots of Southern Comfort]. I reheated some left over butter beans (lima beans cooked in bacon fat and pronounced as one word sounding like ‘buttabean’), did a really thin cornbread in a little lard, and baked a potato. All in all, a pretty yummy meal!
If you happen to have a couple of similarly sized cast iron skillets, I really recommend this technique assuming you have the muscle (and coordination) not to drop the whole bloody affair. It made a really yummy chicken!
C. T. Murphy can more regularly be found over at his blog, Murf Versus. You can also find him on Twitter, where he is frequently at his weirdest. His favorite food is Thai, though his roots are in Soul Food, and he only ever cooks Tex-Mex. He’s a strange fellow.