Roasting is quick and magical for chicken, beef, vegetables

Blonde Lasagna with Chicken, Cheese and Mushrooms.
(SHNS photo by Marlene Parrish/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Story by Marlene Parrish
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Mon, Mar 26, 2012
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My go-to number in the kitchen is 450. As in 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Very, very, hot.

I like what roasting at high temperatures does. It’s fast when I’m impatient. Meats turn out browned, rare and juicy. Vegetables, and fruits, too, collapse and concentrate their flavors.

This has been a favorite way to roast since I tested recipes from “Roasting” by Barbara Kafka for a book review long ago. In her 1995 cookbook she says, “When you’re hungry, roast. When you’re in a rush, roast. When you’re in doubt, roast. When you’re entertaining, roast.”

Smart lady. Good plan.

Roast a whole chicken

To get all the meat done but still juicy, slide the bird into a preheated cast-iron skillet and place it in a 450-degree oven. After about 30 minutes, the heat is turned off, but the bird stays in the oven to finish cooking. The chicken is done in just one hour, and both dark (or what passes for dark meat these days) and white meat are tender, juicy and perfectly cooked to their correct temperatures.

Roast a whole beef tenderloin

It takes a good measure of confidence and faith to blast this pricey, unforgiving cut and expect it to turn out rare. But our tested recipe is worth the angst. The preseasoned beef is browned and seared thoroughly on all sides, giving it a head start on the cooking. To finish, it is placed in a preheated hot oven to roast for a mere 10 to 20 minutes, then it is transferred to a board to rest.

Result? Brown, beautiful crust, pink and juicy interior. Once done, serve the feast when you are good and ready because the roast will wait. I like it either warm or at room temperature. Pass an orange-creme fraiche horseradish sauce for company. Do hope for enough leftovers to make sliced roast beef sandwiches the next day.

Roasted vegetables

Expect veggie pieces to shrink in size as they cook, losing water while concentrating flavors. That’s a good thing because your family will tend to eat more. Try to roast foods with similar densities together, such as potatoes, carrots and onions. Cauliflower roasted with shallots and garlic is wonderful.

As a general rule, cut pieces to similar sizes, toss with olive oil, place in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep an eye on the browning; just the tips should get a bit of char. Should there be leftovers, add them to a quiche or tuck into a pita pocket with a little yogurt.

Tips for roasting at high temperatures

• Set the rack in the center of the oven, unless the recipe indicates otherwise.

• Preheat the oven, giving it a good long time to get up to 450 degrees.

• Use the proper pan size recommended by the recipe to avoid spattering.

• Avoid using disposable pans — they can bend under the weight of heavier pieces of meat, causing a safety hazard.

• Every kitchen needs an instant-read thermometer. Got yours?

• Keep a clean oven. Dirty ovens smoke at high temperatures. If necessary, clean the oven after roasting.

• Never underestimate the effect of carry-over time. Meats need to rest for at least 15 or 20 minutes so that the outer heat permeates the meat throughout and the juices redistribute themselves.

ONE-HOUR PERFECT OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or rub of your choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 1/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Adjust oven rack to middle position. Place a 12-inch oven-safe skillet on rack in the cold oven. A cast-iron skillet is perfect. Now preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine salt, pepper and paprika (or rub) in bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and rub with oil. Sprinkle evenly all over with salt mixture and rub in to coat evenly. Tie the legs together with string and tuck wings tips behind back. Place the chicken on a plate.

At 450 degrees, the skillet will be blazing hot, so be careful. Using double potholders, remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer chicken, sliding it off the plate, breast side up, into preheated skillet. Place chicken in the skillet back into the oven. Roast 25 to 30 minutes depending on size.

Turn off oven and leave chicken 25 to 30 minutes longer or until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees. Do not open that oven door at any time during the cooking.

Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. While it rests, make a pan sauce or gravy if you like. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

For pan sauce:

The pan is still hot, so use an oven mitt. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Keep juices. Add a minced shallot and saute until softened. Add a little broth or pan juice and a bit of prepared mustard, scraping up the brown goodies from the bottom of the skillet. Swirl in a few tablespoons butter, a spritz of fresh lemon juice and any chopped fresh herb you have. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with the chicken.

For gravy:

The pan is still hot, so use an oven mitt. Pour off juices into a measuring cup. They will separate into 2 layers, watery juices on the bottom, fat on the top. Measure 2 tablespoons fat and add back to the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons flour, mix well, turn on the heat to medium and allow the mixture to bubble for 2 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups of chicken broth with the reserved chicken juices and simmer until the thickness is what you like. Add salt and lots of pepper to taste. Want lots more gravy? Use this formula: 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons flour and 4 cups of broth.

— Cooks Illustrated

BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE

  • 4-pound beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 fat clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Season the tenderloin with the salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight. Let it come to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wipe off as much garlic as possible. (It tends to burn.)

In a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat, heat the oil. Add the meat and thoroughly brown all over, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Place the skillet on middle rack and roast until an instant-read thermometer shows 120 degrees (for rare), 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before carving. Makes about 8 to 10 servings.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl, whisk 2 cups creme fraiche with 1/4 cup white horseradish and the grated zest of 1/2 orange. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve alongside the tenderloin.

— Melissa Clark, The New York Times

SWEET-POTATO SLICES WITH GARLIC

  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/8-inch-thick rounds

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the upper third. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking tray.

Put the garlic through a press, then mince. In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, oil, salt and sweet potatoes.

Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking tray. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from the oven and flip the slices “pretty side up.” Serve with fried sage leaves scattered over top. Makes 4-6 servings.

For fried sage: Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then fry sage leaves (about 24 large leaves) in several batches, stirring until crisp, about 30 seconds to a minute per batch. Watch carefully. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

— “Gourmet Weekday” (Conde Nast, May 2012, $20)

ROASTED BEET SALAD

A few roasted beets in the veggie drawer come in handy. They keep for several weeks, wrapped in foil. Then any time you need an extra dish, turn the beets into Harvard or pickled beets, add slices to a salad or make this herby side dish.

  • About 6 medium beets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons squeezed orange juice, preferably blood orange
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. To bake beets: Trim, leaving 2 inches of tops and tails. Wrap 2 to 3 beets in aluminum foil and set the packages on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let packages cool, then refrigerate until ready to finish the dish. When ready, trim a thin slice from both top and bottom of the beets. Skin will slip off. Slice or chunk beets.

Combine remaining ingredients. Whisk and add to beets. Serve at room temperature. Makes enough to serve 4 or 5, depending on the meal.

— Marlene Parrish

BLONDE LASAGNA WITH CHICKEN, CHEESE AND MUSHROOMS

  • 10 ounces mushrooms (white or brown, wild or mixed), thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded to make 2 1/2 cups
  • Rotisserie pan juices
  • Chicken skin, chopped (optional, but delicious)
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 12 no-boil egg lasagna noodles, preferably Barilla
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the middle. Spritz an 8-by-10-inch oblong baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. (A deep 9-by-9-inch pan can work, too.)

Cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chicken, juices and skin (if using). Set aside saucepan; you’ll use it again.

Bring milk to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Add hot milk in a fast stream, whisking constantly. Add the thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove from heat, and reserve 1 cup sauce. Stir Parmigiano-Reggiano into remaining sauce in pan, then stir into mushroom filling.

Spread half of reserved plain sauce in baking pan to coat bottom. Add 3 lasagna sheets, overlapping slightly, and 1/3 of mushroom filling, spreading evenly, then sprinkle 1/4 of Gruyere over top. Repeat sheets and filling 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 lasagna sheets and remaining plain sauce, spreading evenly. Sprinkle top with remaining Gruyere.

Spritz a long sheet of aluminum foil with baking spray oil. Cover the lasagna with the foil, tenting a bit to prevent foil from touching top of lasagna (it wants to stick) but sealing all around the edge, and bake 30 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and bake until cheese topping is golden, about 12 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

— “Gourmet Weekday” (Conde Nast, May 2012, $20)

DEVILED CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS

Says Marlene Parrish: For the crispiest coating, use panko — the Japanese breadcrumbs that look more like bone-dry shards of crunchy white bread — and mix with Parmesan and some melted butter before you coat the chicken. If you have any hot smoked Spanish paprika, use it instead of the cayenne. Chicken can also be roasted a day ahead and chilled.

  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with rack in upper third. Pat chicken dry, then toss with mustard until evenly coated.

Stir together panko, cheese, cayenne and salt and pepper. Drizzle with butter and toss well.

Dredge each drumstick in crumb mixture to coat, then arrange, without crowding, on a buttered large rimmed baking sheet.

Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

­— “Gourmet Weekday” (Conde Naste, May 2012, $20)

Food, recipes, Roasting
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