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04.25.2005

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roast chicken? yes, please! 
by Kristin Wygal
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When life has me tense and exhausted, a roast chicken can still push my lips up to smile. After a harsh day, I go straight to the market, grab a chicken, a lemon, a bottle of wine, and rush back home to let the relief begin as I prepare my favorite comfort food. Simple, elegant, and easy on the wallet, roast chicken is a great way to pamper myself without having to wait until my next paycheck. Best of all, I do not have to fight anyone for my favorite pieces (which happens to be all of them). As the only meat-eater in my household, roasting a chicken has taken on a self-indulgent quality.

Contrary to popular belief, roasting is a time efficient way to cook. A perfectly roasted chicken may take an hour in the oven, but it only takes about five minutes to prepare. And during the time that it is becoming golden and crispy, you can relax on the couch, read a book, or prepare accompanying dishes for those who are not satisfied with only a glass of wine in the hand and a chicken on the plate.

Roasting is one of those cooking terms that many people confuse with other methods. To roast meat is simply to cook it uncovered in the oven, without any extra liquid. If you put a cover on the pan, you're baking. If you brown the meat first and add a minimal amount of liquid to the pan, you're braising.

The pan used for roasting can also help you get that picture-perfect roast usually seen only in cartoons and cookbooks. Generally speaking, a roasting pan is a shallow, oven-safe pan. By shallow I mean that the sides should not be less than two inches high but also should not be taller than about six inches. To roast a chicken, some people like to place it on a v-shaped rack set in the roasting pan so that all that dry heat from the oven can reach every last morsel of chicken. Personally, I like placing my chicken directly in the roasting pan without a rack because I enjoy those rich, caramel-like pieces that stick to the bottom of the pan. I have often been caught picking through those savory, sticky morsels with a blissful glow upon my face.

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