JOPLIN, Mo. —
While putting a chicken in the slow cooker and leaving it all day is the easiest way I know to prepare a bird, a close second is roasting in the oven. This dry technique allows hot air to surround the food and cook it evenly on all sides. Some say it can only be called "roasting" if there's no cover, while others think a lid makes no difference.
Your best bets for roasting are ham, chicken, turkey or tenderloin as well as dense vegetables such as beets, potatoes and winter squash. Smaller cuts of meat such as boneless chicken breasts or fish fillets tend to dry out when roasted. St. Patrick's Day corned beef is best made boiled or baked, covered with foil or a lid. But while it's resting, you can load up your roasting pan with the vegetables, brush them with a little butter and roast them quickly at 425 degrees to create the perfect side dish.
Choosing your oven temperature depends on the food you are cooking. Vegetables usually need to be cooked at a moderate temperature (around 375 F), so the internal water evaporates quickly, concentrating the flavor without too much browning. In general, use low (250 F) to moderate (375 F) temperatures for large roasts, so they will cook evenly and slowly and not burn on the outside before the inside is done. High heat (above 400 F) works well for tenderloins, producing a browned crust and meat that is perfect on the inside in a short time.
A heavy roasting pan is less likely to burn your pan drippings, and everyone likes to make sauce or gravy with that goodness, so bypass those disposable pans and invest in a good one. A pan with low sides will allow more of the oven's heat to connect with the meat, and a rack will help prop up the meat away from the drippings. Don't have a rack for your roaster? Place a cooling rack in the pan to get the job done.
To baste or not to baste? If you are making a standing rib roast, basting would eliminate one of the best features of the finished product: the salty crust. Chicken and turkey have enough fat under the skin that they self-baste, so basting only causes you to fan the oven door and can prevent the meat from cooking properly because of the changes in temperature. While it's not necessary to baste for moisture, you may want to baste for flavor, such as using a nice glaze for your ham. In this case, go for it, but do so quickly so your oven heat doesn't escape and cause you to have to start all over with the correct temperature. One of the great things about roasting is its ease: Put the meat in the oven -- you don't bother it and it doesn't bother you.
A meat thermometer is essential to prevent overcooking roasted meat, which results in dry and less tender servings. Just as important is not undercooking it. The USDA's guidelines for doneness lists poultry at an internal temperature of 165 degrees. When reheating a fully cooked ham, an internal temperature of 140 degrees is safe. They recommend beef and lamb be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees and pork to 160 degrees.
All roasted meat should rest for 10 to 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Larger cuts will retain enough internal heat that they will continue to cook while resting, adding 10 degrees or so. Smaller cuts without the mass of a big roast will continue cooking by a couple degrees. Don't be tempted to rush this step. Allow the juices to redistribute so they don't end up on your cutting board. I hope these great tips for roasting meat, courtesy of "Cooking Light," will give you the perfect entree.
I waited too long to try the three new Lay's potato chip flavors -- sriracha, chicken and waffles, and cheesy garlic bread -- to vote for the next new flavor.
I was at the store trying to find these temporary offerings at the same time the Lay's representative happened to be there. She said they don't have any more bags in the warehouse, and she thinks they are tabulating the votes. I was able to snag a small bag of the chicken and waffles in a variety pack and found it to be a very sweet chip with a definite maple syrup taste. It's like having dinner in a chip. I'm waiting for the results and will never know how the other two stacked up if chicken and waffles wins. I will be especially sad if I totally missed out on the cheesy garlic bread.
The first two recipes for today are from "Cooking Light." Tie the legs of the roasted chicken together and protect the wing tips as instructed so the chicken will roast evenly.
The broccoli casserole is a variation of the classic version that uses Velveeta, and it's a great St. Patty's side dish for those who don't like cabbage.
For dessert, from the "Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor," we enjoy Jessica's caramel chocolate brownies. Put those last three words together and you can't help but lick your lips. Top with some green-tinted whipped cream for some luck of the Irish. These are super easy to make, and they're even easier if you buy a bag of caramel chips instead of unwrapping individual caramels.
Happy St. Patrick's Day and happy eating!
Bistro roast chicken
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
4 teaspoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (41/2-pound) roasting chicken
Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken; trim excess fat. Starting at the neck, loosen skin from the breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat.
Rub herb mixture under loosened skin and over breast and drumsticks. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Place chicken, breast side down, on rack of shallow roasting pan sprayed with cooking spray. Baked at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over, breast side up.
Bake 40 more minutes or until thermometer inserted in meaty part of thigh reads 165 degrees. Place chicken on cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Discard skin. Yields 5 servings.
Swiss broccoli casserole
2/3 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup cooked rice
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
Combine first four ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Add cheese; stir until melted. Remove from heat; stir in rice and broccoli. Transfer to sprayed 11-by-7-inch baking dish; sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Yields 8 servings.
Jessica's caramel chocolate brownies
1 German chocolate cake mix
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk, divided
1 (14-ounce) bag caramels
1 to 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Place cake mix, butter and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in a large mixing bowl. Batter will be thick and well combined. Pour half into 9-by-13-inch pan, lightly misted with vegetable oil spray; smooth out with spatula. Bake at 350 degrees until it puffs up but is soft, about 6 minutes; remove from oven. Place the caramels in a medium saucepan with remaining evaporated milk. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until caramels melt and mixture is smooth and thick, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour hot mixture over cake layer. Scatter chocolate chips evenly on top. Dollop teaspoonfuls of remaining cake batter at random over the chocolate chips. Scatter the nuts on top of the batter if desired. Bake until batter on top browns lightly and a crust forms around the edges of the pan, 22 to 24 minutes. The brownies should still be a little soft in the center. Cool completely on rack, 30 minutes. Yields 24 squares.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.