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Monday, December 29, 2014

Roast Chicken of Christmas Past

And so the highlight of the Christmas season has passed us by. Quite thankfully, it was spent with more consciousness of what the holiday was all about in the first place. It was a pleasant surprise, too, that most of the people I know felt the same way, the motivation being that friends and acquaintances started comparing Christmases of the recent past with that of the distant ones.

One that sparked my memory train was that time we celebrated Christmas in Rome (what better place than in the official seat of the Heavenly Host). The city itself was very much into the spirit of things - concerts here and there, churches were open well into the evening for tourists and faithful members, and the streets well-decorated which eventually led you to the festive lights of the Piazza Navona Christmas market. Regardless of the decor and commercialisation, however, the ordinary people there were still able to keep things simple.

And the one thing that further stood out from this reminiscent train was this roast chicken we thoroughly enjoyed when we were there. Actually, neither one of our party prepared it since it was just a ready-to-eat roast that we purchased in Ipermercato Panorama located at Via Aurelia. 

It was perfectly roasted as it maintained the crispiness of the skin with a minimum of seasonings, and yet the meat stayed succulent and very juicy. At €5 (around Php300 at the exchange rate of that time), it was well worth it.

In the pursuit of such simplicity, I thought of roasting 2 chickens of my own at exactly 1 kilo each. I prepped it by giving the chickens a sea salt rub, washing them off with water and patting them dry.

In a separate bowl, I poured a 1/8-cup of good quality olive oil, then mixed it with some salt, dried thyme, 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, fresh ground pepper and half a teaspoon of lemon zest to make it into a paste. I rubbed this all over and inside the chickens, including in between the skin and breast meat and thigh to let the flavours seep through.  Afterwards, I cut a lemon in half and put one of the halves each inside the hollow of the chicken and secured the legs together by inserting the ends into the chicken's extra skin, and tucked the wing tips under the shoulders.

I used a halogen light-powered portable oven (a.k.a. turbo broiler in Philippine parlance) and set it at 250 degrees Celsius for 55 minutes. The low temperature  contributes to the crispiness of the skin. I also basted it with additional olive oil every 15 minutes. Halfway through cooking, I inverted the birds to receive equal browning from the heat source.

At the end of cooking time, I let the chickens rest for a couple of minutes, then removed the half lemons from each of the chickens before serving them on a platter. The drippings can be placed in a separate bowl for those who like to have them as a light sauce. No additional thickening or cooking needed.

What came out were delicately-crispy birds worthy not only of the holidays, but anytime you feel like celebrating or sharing with friends.