I have a deep, true, and abiding relationship with chicken. It comes from my mother, this near-addiction. Growing up (mostly) in the South, chicken is a staple, and it’s considered darn near a sin not to be able to cook chicken well. My paternal grandmother COULD NOT cook chicken (or much of anything), bless her heart, but she did give my mother a hint about cooking chicken that helped her turn her baked bird into a work of art.
She lovingly passed this on to me, and I tweaked it a bit here and there. I now firmly believe that I have the PERFECT way to cook a chicken. In fact, I know this to be true, because a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from an old college friend asking me if I remembered the 2 chickens I cooked for her when she was recuperating from cancer surgery TWENTY YEARS AGO. She said it was the best chicken she had ever eaten. Now, how many people remember EXACTLY a cooked chicken brought to them 20 years previously? Well, it must have been some damn good chicken, that’s all I can say!
So, with no further ado, I present:
Baked Chicken a la Grumpy
1 frying chicken (approx. 4 pounds)
Red wine vinegar
Onion powder (NOT salt)
Garlic powder (NOT salt)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Unwrap the chicken and remove the giblets, if present. Lots of chickens don’t have them anymore. Wash out the cavity well, and cut off that part of the bird that “goes over the fence last”. If you’ve never handled a whole, raw chicken before and don’t know what that part is, just quit reading now and head to KFC.
Otherwise, pat the chicken dry and place it breast side DOWN in a roasting pan. Cooking it this way will ensure that the white meat, which cooks faster than the dark, stays moist and juicy.
Sprinkle the chicken liberally with the red wine vinegar. This was my grandmother’s “secret”. Sounds odd, but it makes a HUGE difference in the final product. Don’t worry, nothing tastes like vinegar at the end. Drizzle a little soy sauce on after the vinegar (just a little, soy is salty).
Sprinkle well with the above-listed seasonings. I’ve never really measured these spices, just putting them on till things “look right” but until you decide what you like, go with less is more. If you’re not familiar with coriander, it’s the ground seeds of the cilantro plant, but tastes NOTHING like cilantro. It has a light, lemony flavor.
Once you’ve got the chicken “doctored up”, put about 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and put the pan in the 375 oven for 45 minutes UNCOVERED. Check after about 20 minutes, make sure there’s juice in the bottom of the pan, and grab your handy turkey baster (lesbian readers, I KNOW you’ve got one), and baste the chicken at least once during this time. If you need to, add a little more water, again maybe 1/2 cup.
After the first 45 minutes is up, baste again, cover the pan with the lid, turn the oven down to 350 and cook for another 45 minutes, again basting at least once.
Turn off the oven, take out the pan and let “rest” for another 15 to 20 minutes. By this time, your house will smell like heaven and everyone will be salivating. The chicken should be moist, juicy, and VERY tender. In fact, it should practically fall off the bone.
Parcel out accordingly and enjoy!
For an additional yummy, toss an entire head of garlic cloves in and bake with the chicken. They’ll be soft enough to spread on warm bread as an appetizer or to serve with the bird.
Yum, yum, gimme some!