It’s hot. Really hot. Maybe you’ve noticed? The 90+ degree days, the sticky, oppressive humidity, the languid, heavy-as-a-blanket air? While our friends in the Pacific Northwest shiver in the fog and rain, wondering if summer will ever come, here in the Northeast we are suffocating under a heatwave that is only the beginning: weather forecasts call for increasing heat & humidity until Sunday. I’m a Northern girl, of Northern peoples: my Scottish, Irish and Finnish grandparents did not provide me with the DNA to cope with this kind of weather. I’m decidedly cranky in the heat: I whimper. I lay about like a limp noodle, reading old stories of crisp, cool English garden parties, and munching on lime popsicles every hour. What I don’t do? Cook.
Unless I can manage to get myself out of bed before 6:00 am (a rare feat on the best of days), it’s far too hot to turn on the oven. Far too hot, especially, to turn on the oven to roast a chicken: yet that is exactly what I needed to do. In the cooler days of last weekend, I had pullled a whole chicken out of the freezer to thaw, intending to roast it on Saturday for dinner. But by Saturday night it was not fully thawed, and I was busy making soba noodles and frittata for a World Cup Final viewing party. By yesterday, that chicken had been in the fridge for more than three days: it needed cooking, and it wasn’t going to outlast this heatwave. But the thought of cranking the oven up to 400 degrees for over an hour? <shudder> No thanks. I thought about chopping it up and putting it on the grill, but my deck gets full Southwestern sun all afternoon: it was hot enough to fry an egg out there. I thought about attempting to butterfly the chicken and going the faster, broiling, route: but my knife skills are legendarily poor and firing up the oven to 550 degrees for “only” 30 minutes didn’t seem like a great alternative. Enter Facebook.
I kvetched about the situation on the Local Kitchen Facebook page: how was I supposed to get this chicken cooked when it was already too hot to move? Our great community on FB jumped in with jokes, suggestions and ideas, as usual; and one commenter, Julie, suggested the Crock-Pot:
Brilliant! It seems obvious, but somehow I hadn’t thought of using the Crock-Pot when I don’t want to heat up the house with the oven. I haven’t had the best success with my Crock-Pot since receiving it last year for my birthday: I’d made a few things; a somewhat uninspired African chicken dish, some really mushy red beans, a disaster of an apple butter that cooked for three days; and I hadn’t fallen in love. I felt like the dish was always better when I made it on the stove, or in the traditional oven, and since I work from home, and can check on long-cooking dishes during the day, the convenience factor was not a big plus. But I had not thought of the summer-cooking Crock-Pot advantage: it can be on for hours while adding little to no heat to the room.
So I dug that chicken out of the fridge, rinsed her off, patted her dry, sprinkled some salt & pepper. Snipped a few herbs from the planter on the Back Deck Inferno. Rousted an orange out of the crisper drawer. Tucked it all inside my Crock-Pot, complete with handy-dandy roasting rack, set the timer for 4 hours, and went back to work. By 2 hours it was start to sizzle and smell good. By 3 hours it was popping, the orange smell was intoxicating, and I was getting hungry. By 3 hours and 45 minutes it registered 175 degrees on my thermometer: I popped it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp & brown the skin (turning on the broiler for 10 minutes was a good trade-off as the white, limp chicken skin out of the Crock-Pot was not appetizing), et, voila! Dinner. Decidedly moist, deliciously orangey, herbily-infused, appetizingly-browned chicken dinner. With a reduction sauce that was truly outstanding, minimal oven-on time, and even minimal dishes to wash. Crock-Pot, you are my new best friend.
- one 3 to 4-lb whole chicken
- about 1 tsp coarse salt
- about 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 an orange, quartered
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Rinse the chicken, removing any organ meats from the cavity (discard or reserve for another use), and pat dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt (use less than you normally would for an oven-roasted chicken, otherwise your reduction sauce will be too salty) and pepper. If you have the time, allow to rest on a clean plate and come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Squeeze one or two of the orange sections into the cavity of the bird, then stuff the squeezed orange sections in. Crush the fresh herbs a bit, between your hands, to release the fragrant oils, then add these to the chicken cavity. Truss the legs together, to keep the bird compact, then transfer to the Crock-Pot, using a roasting rack if you have one (if you do not have a roasting rack, you can try to raise the bird out of the eventual juices by placing on a bed of root vegetables, using a sling of foil, or some heat-safe prop to raise the chicken body, like a couple of ramekins, cookie cutters, or Ball jar bands). Squeeze the remaining orange sections over the top of the bird, then add them to the bottom of the Crock-Pot. Cook on HIGH for 3 and 1/2 to 4 hours (other recipes suggest LOW for 6 to 7 hours) or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads at least 165 degrees F.
- Lift out the chicken using the roasting rack (or two sturdy wooden spatulas) and transfer to a clean plate. Place a heavy, oven-safe skillet in the oven, with the highest rack set below your oven’s broiler, with enough room for the chicken and at least a few of inches of space. Preheat the broiler, and the skillet, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the pan is good and hot: then carefully transfer the chicken, breast up, to the hot skillet and place under the broiler. Broil for about 7 minutes, watching carefully and adjusting the pan position as necessary to yield a nicely browned skin on the top of the bird. When browned, remove from oven, transfer back to the plate, tent with foil and allow to rest for 10 – 20 minutes before carving.
- In the meantime, pour the accumulated chicken juices from the Crock-Pot into a medium saucepan, scraping the insert to get up any browned bits. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust flavorings. Serve carved chicken with hot reduction sauce.
- Instead of browning the chicken under the broiler, you may opt to simply finish roasting the chicken in the oven in order to crisp up the skin. If this is the case, I would remove the chicken from the Crock-Pot at a meat temperature of about 150 degrees F and finish in a 400 degree F oven (probably 20 – 30 minutes). You could also crisp the skin on an outdoor grill, if it is simply too hot to turn on the broiler!
- Of course, the flavorings for roasted chicken vary wildly: any of your favorites will work. I did really enjoy the orange reduction sauce, however: I think citrus worked nicely in this method.
Refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Make sure to save the carcass (and neck, if you get it) for homemade stock.
Year-round, but this technique is wonderful for summer, when you don’t want to heat up the house with the oven.