Archive for October, 2008

Pan-roast Chicken

Pan-roast chicken with lemon and herbs

Pan-roast chicken with lemon and herbs

I wanted to make a roast chicken the other day, but I can never seem to get a good sauce base when I roast a chicken. All the juices and flavor that come off the chicken basically burn in the bottom of my roasting pan. I am a big fan of pan sauces though. So my problem was this: I want the flavor and crispy skin that you get when you roast a bird, but I want a pan sauce that can only be made with the fond that comes from browning meat directly in a skillet. Fortunately, Cook’s Illustrated was here to help me out.

I came across an recipe in their recent November issue for pan-roasting a chicken, resulting in crisp skin and a versatile pan sauce base. Their suggestion was basically take a cut up whole chicken and brown it in a skillet–I used my trusty cast iron 12-inch skillet for this. Then once a fond has developed and the chicken is golden, pour in some liquid to deglaze the pan and basically steam the chicken. Once nearly cooked through, you pour the liquid out (but keep it!) and re-brown the chicken in the pan. Now you have crispy chicken that you can set aside for a moment and use the remaining liquid to make your pan sauce! Perfect!

Pan-roast Chicken with lemon and herbs

Pan-roast Chicken with lemon and herbs

Here is the way I did mine:

Pan-roast Chicken
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

For the chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 parts (skin-on thighs, drumsticks, breasts cut in half)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth (I always use low sodium)
1/4 dry vermouth (you can use dry white wine)
salt and black pepper

For my Sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp flour (AP is best)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp herbs en provence
1/3 tablespoon butter (unsalted)
salt and black pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced


  1. Season your dry chicken with salt and pepper. Heat about 2 tsps olive oil (I used some regular, not extra virgin. You can use almost any kind of oil) in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. When the oil is hot (you should see it begin to ripple) add chicken, skin-side down, and cook 5 to 8 minutes. Try not to move the chicken once you put it in the pan. Moving the chicken will prevent the fond from forming and actually cause it to stick more.
  3. Flip the chicken skin-side up. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add about 3/4 cup broth then cover the skillet. Cook about 10-15 minutes. For those of you like me who like measurements, an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part should be 155 degrees for the breasts and 170 for the legs/thighs. If some parts reach that temperature before others, go ahead and remove them to a plate (skin-side up).
  4. Pour the liquid from the skillet and reserve. Go ahead and give the skillet a quick wipe with a paper towel.
  5. Add about a tsp of oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot (again, it should just begin to ripple). Return chicken pieces skin-side down and cook until skin is golden brown and that great crispy texture that we were trying to get all along. At this point, you want the internal temperature of the breasts to be 160 degrees and the legs to be 175 degrees. It should take about 5 minutes, give or take one or two. When cooked, transfer to serving platter and tent loosely with foil.
  6. Using spoon, skim fat from reserved cooking liquid and add the rest of the broth and wine-or-vermouth.
  7. Heat about a tsp of oil in now-empty skillet over low heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 1 minute.
  8. If the pan is particularly dry, add up to a tsp more of oil. Then add the flour and stir constantly for 30 seconds.
  9. Increase heat to medium-high, add the herbs en provence and the reserved cooking liquid, broth and wine-or-vermouth mixture, and bring to simmer, scraping skillet bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Maintain a brisk simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 mintues.
  10. Off heat, whisk in lemon juice and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste (go ahead and taste the sauce, it’s good). Pour sauce around chicken and serve immediately.

I garnished with some parsley (to make it look pretty for the pictures, of course). Also, don’t pour the sauce all over the skin, it will make it soggy.


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