One of the benefits of passing out jams as Christmas gifts is that you get other peoples’ efforts in return. This year, I received some Bartlett pear jam from Michael and Jennifer. While it is good on my breakfast toast, I thought it would make a good base for a chicken marinade. To complete my dinner I had a large vegetable side dish and buttermilk biscuits for the starch eaters.
A few weeks ago, I used my own marmalades to make an orange roast chicken and a lemon roast chicken. I marinated each bird with Marsala wine overnight and these birds were a great successes. For today’s bird, I decided to use a dry chardonnay and the pear jam. I though sage and tarragon would be good herbs to marry the flavors of chicken, wine, and pears.
I had bought some Forelle pears. These are not cooking pears, but I thought that they would make a good garnish/side dish to surround the chicken on the platter. A roasted chicken sitting alone on a big platter just looks forlorn, you should always try to surround it with friends—potatoes, vegetables, or simply a lettuce garnish. I am thinking to just warm them through and decoratively sear the cut edges.
Note: Pear jam may not be available in your area, You may make a quick jam as a substitute.
Karl’s Roasted Chicken with Sage and Pears
4-5 lb. roasting chicken
½ tsp. Kosher salt
⅔ cup dry chardonnay
⅓ cup Bartlett pear jam
¼ cup butter, softened
2 Tbs. Bartlett pear jam
2 Tbs. rubbed sage
1 tsp. tarragon, crushed
½ tsp. black pepper
4-5 Forelle pears
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbs. Orange Flavored Brandy
½ Tbs. sugar
1. Several hours before dinner—preferably the night before—rinse and pat the bird dry. Separate the skin from the breast and thighs.
Tip: Lay the chicken on its back with the neck facing away from you. Slide your fingers under the skin at the back of the breast bone and spread your fingers apart. Try not to rip the skin any wider near the breast bone. Push your hand in further and repeat the finger spreading. Slide your fingers over the outside of the thighs. You should now have much of the skin separated from the meat on both sides of the bird.
2. Sprinkle the bird lightly with salt and set it inside a sealable gallon plastic bag—neck side down.
Tip: Sprinkle the salt inside, outside and under the skin.
3. Mix the wine and pear jam in a small bowl.
4. Pour half of the wine mixture under the skin around the breast.
5. Pour the rest of the wine into the cavity of the bird .
6. Press as much air out of the bag as you can and seal it.
7. Massage the bird to distribute the wine under the skin and to coat the outside skin with the wine.
Note: The wine in the cavity will leak out and provide plenty of liquid to do this. This is also why you put the bird in the bag before adding the wine.
8. Refrigerate the chicken, rotating occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
9. About three hours before dinner, mix the butter, jam, sage, tarragon, and pepper in a small bowl.
10. Remove the bird from the bag and set it on a wire rack set in a roasting pan.
Tip: Discard any wine remaining in the bag or bring it to a boil and filter out the clotted chicken juices before adding it to the bottom of the pan with the water.
Note: The wire rack keeps the bottom of the bird up out of the pan juices as the bird roasts. I do not have a wire rack that fits my usual roasting pan. I use several canning jar rings—without the lids—to make a makeshift rack.
11. Smear half of the butter paste under the skin, over the breast, thighs, and legs.
12. Smear the remaining marinade inside the cavity and over the skin of the chicken.
13. Seal the cavity by sewing up the skin.
Tip: I usually pull the flaps of skin at the cavity opening together and use 2-3 toothpicks to stitch them together.
14. Truss the legs with string and fold the first joint of the wings under the breast to pin the wings to the bird.
Tip: Take a piece of string and tie it to one end of the leg. Wrap the string around the end of the other leg and draw them together. Tie the ends of the string together to hold the legs in place.
15. Lay the bird, breast side up, on a wire rack in a roasting pan and pour a cup of water into the bottom of the pan.
Tip: This prevents the juices from burning as they leak out of the bird and onto the pan. It also provides you with the liquid to make a savory gravy to go with your bird.
16. Leave the buttered bird on the counter to warm to room temperature, about 40 minutes..
Tip: The bird will cook more evenly if it is not cold from the refrigerator.
17. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
18. Put the chicken in the oven, on the middle level, and reduce the heat to 350º F.
19. Rotate the pan after 30 minutes and insert a constant read thermometer set to 165º F into the breast near the wing joint.
Tip: Whenever I under cook a chicken it is where the wing meets the breast where the juices are still not running clear. Roasting a whole chicken is always a delicate balance between some bits being over done and salmonella.
Note: If the top of the breast skin looks like it might burn, cover it lightly with some aluminum foil to prevent it from getting over done.
20. As the chicken is roasting, cut the Forelle pears in half and core them.
21. Rub the cut surfaces of the pears with lemon juice, splash on some brandy and sprinkle them with the sugar.
22. Continue roasting until the chicken is done.
Note: Depending on the size of the bird and your ovens exact temperature it should take about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and thirty minutes to roast the chicken.
23. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover it with aluminum foil to rest for 15 minutes.
Tip: This rest will bring the internal temperature of the bird to 170º F. Poke the breast right by the wing joint, if the juices run clear the bird is done.
24. Set the pear halves, cut side up, on a small tray and broil them for 5-10 minutes.
25. Remove the foil tent and arrange the pears around the chicken and serve.
26. Carve the bird at the table.
27. Strain the pan juices into a small pot and bring it to a boil. Add some corn starch mixed with water or flour mixed with milk to thicken the sauce into a gravy to be served on the side
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