Sunday, July 8, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Sorrel

I'm not sure where I first encountered it.  An article on food in my youth.  My sister experimenting with roast chicken.  A snippet of a cooking show.  But I was hooked the moment I discovered the trick...

Herbs layered under the poultry skin.  The skin glistened...all golden and crisp...and through it, a beautiful arrangement of bay leaves, parsley and thyme.  I continued this little tip off and on as I experimented with roasting chicken and turkey.  Turkey was more frequently used, as the breast provided a much larger palette than their smaller poultry cousins. 

When two bunches of fresh sorrel arrived in my CSA box this was my first idea.  Well...after poking around in my cookbooks and online t learn more about sorrel.  Driftless Organics describes the leafy herb as having a lemony flavor.  Elsewhere it is described as similar to kiwi fruit or sour strawberries.  Tasting it, I can certain detect these comparison...but something more.  a bit peppery...almost grassy.  Even a hint of raw rhubarb.  That tang immediately paired it with chicken in my mind.

Many of the recipes I found when researching sorrel were for soups.  And most recipes seem to come to us via the UK. Oddly enough, I found a recipe at the BBC providing a roast bird, just the way I hoped...rubbed with herbs and stuffed with lemon.  The key being herbs slathered under the skin, of course.

Adapted from Steve Wallis' recipe at the BBC

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 - 3 lb roasting chicken
6 sorrel leaves, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 lemon, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 bulb fresh garlic
1 bunch fresh thyme
salt and pepper

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375

Combine the butter and sorrel in a bowl.  Mound the sorrel butter on a square of wax paper and roll into a log.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Starting at the neck end,  loosen the skin of the bird from the breast, being careful not to tear.  Generously spread the butter under the skin and all over the surface of the bird (you will use about half of the butter).  Reserve the remaining butter for a later use.  Place the lemon, bay leaves, garlic and thyme into the cavity.  Truss the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. 

 Place in a roasting pan, breast side up.  Roast, uncovered, for about 60 minutes or until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 160.

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the bird breast side down to allow the juices to run into the breast meat. Cover loosely in aluminum foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place, reserving the pan juices to use for gravy, if desired. 

Transfer the bird to a carving board, carve and serve.

The Review:
A tasty bird, to be sure, but sadly this chicken was largely forgettable.  Oh, the meat was tender and succulent (do people even use that word any more?  Succulent?)  Juicy through and through.  Sadly I've had many a crisper skin.  Lesson learned...hotter oven.  I've made enough roats chicken to know not to set the oven below 400.

The flavor hinted at citrus and lemon, but in a vague, teasing way.  I hoped the sorrel would impart more favor.  Turns out, as lovely as the sorrel butter was, most of the dish drew its character from the lemon and garlic stuffed into the cavity.  Will I try it again? Probably.  But with a higher heat and a bit more help from basics like salt and pepper.

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