Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cracklin' Crisp Chicken and Gardening Overload

The finished plate

Just off the Viking Elliptical Cooker

Half way point...

The resting bird

I actually prepared this chicken recipe a few weeks ago, but we are going to grill another chicken tonight because neither of us have been able to forget the cracklin' quality of the crispy chicken skin.
I just know I can tell you my naughty little secrets, we (more me than he) ate all of the shatteringly crisp skin and then were too full to actually eat the meat. I fixed the plate for the photo op and we picked at it, vacuum sealed the remaining leftovers, and went to our respective corners to pay our penance. Lent had just started and both of us had sworn off meat. Now let's not get too crazy, after the "skin sin", I modified my plans to "no RED meat" which I promptly screwed up the next weekend when I fixed bacon, downed a couple slices, thought about what I had just done and then justified it as 'bacon equals pork, the other white meat'. Yeah, that's it. Does breakfast meat really count anyway? Thank God Jesus wasn't tempted with crispy chicken skin or breakfast meat. Salvation would have never been the same...
Anyhoo, if you love crispy chicken skin but have a hard time achieving it, this recipe has a trick: baking powder. Trust me, there are no weird flavors or aftertastes. The science behind it is this: Chickens are processed in water, and there is a lot of water in the packaging; therefore, the chicken skin absorbs a lot of this moisture. By putting baking powder on the skin, it actually pulls moisture out of the skin which then evaporates. The baking powder melts, goes into the skin, pulls moisture and after a few hours comes back to the surface where it simply, because of the dilution process, just disappears too.
This recipe can be prepared on the grill which I like because of the smoky flavor it takes on. I used a vertical apparatus that enables the bird to "sit" on the grill grate. You could do the "beer can" routine. Probably tonight we will try a new grilling gizmo that my husband ordered called the 'turkey cannon'. It seems small enough to accomodate a chicken. I'll let you know what we think of the cannon later.
Gardening overload is happening. The pawpaw trees are suffering at the farm. The deer are determined to dig them up and nibble the roots, plus the recent frosts have bitten the tender tops. I think they will pull through. My friend, Mike is plowing my 4 gardens at the farm. Each garden is an acre plot. David, for my birthday present, bought me a John Deere 5101 (translation: Bigass Tractor) with a seven row tiller. Since that set us back about $50K, I have to wait til next year for the convertible seedbox which means I have to use my manual seeder in each of those gardens. I can't wait to see the neighbor's face when I till those gardens with my JD, and then step out of the cab, load up my seeder, and start walking down the garden's length, hilarious!
An acre is 208 feet, squared. I thought my gardens at the house were about a half an acre. Oh how wrong I was. They are probably not even a 1/4 of an acre. For these gardens at the farm, since I couldn't mentally picture an acre, David and I, on the windiest day in March, of course, used a tape measure to walk off each plot. I'm sure the neighbor was rolling on the floor laughing at us being wind-whipped while walking off the plots with a giant tape measure.
Beside trying to get the garden seed ready for these huge gardens, we are having the pasture fertilized and grass seed sown so I had to decide on my grass seed mix. Since I have bees, I wanted an assortment of forage for them so we went with short blade fescue, perennial rye, alfalfa, white clover, and yellow clover. Then the 15 acres that cuts through the woods will be turned into a wildlife area and that seed is comprised of the former plus shasta daisy, rizome sunflowers, and prairie grasses. Next year in the main pasture, using a no-till method, I can cut in red poppies, sunflowers, among others.
I started seeds a few weeks ago under my grow lights in the garage. I always plant something "experimental". I call it experimental because I try to pick something unusual that I haven't seen in other gardens. This year it is artichokes. I read an article last month about some gardeners in Maine that grow Imperial artichokes with great success. I was able to get some seed which has germinated reasonably well. Not as well as I had hoped, but I do have some seedlings. The Green Globe artichoke seed came up much better than the cold-hardy Imperial so it has already been different than I had expected. Green Globe is the variety that California artichoke farmers grow. Artichoke seed only has about a 70% germination rate that is why the Imperial has confounded me already, only 60% germination vs 90+ with the Green Globe. I will take a picture in the next few days so you can see the difference in healthiness. Both varieties were planted the same day.
It has become a mission to plant these seedlings because David told the guys down at the farm supply what I was growing and they laughed him out of the place. "Artichokes don't grow in Kentucky!" He came back home and told me what they said, and at that moment I decided that was the plant I was going to follow on my blog so the whole world, or at least you and I, could laugh back, "Oh yes they do!" I can't stand narrow-minded farmers. Of course, I could fail, but in true gardening spirit, I'll move on to the next interesting plant.

Cracklin' Crisp Chicken
1 whole chicken, 6-7 pounds, giblets removed and discarded
5 tsp kosher salt (if using table salt, 2-1/2 tsp)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp black pepper
Place the chicken breast-side down on the work surface. Using the tip of a sharp knife make 1" slits below each thigh and breast along the back of the chicken. Using a skewer, poke several holes in the fat deposits of th thighs and tops of the breasts. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken.
Combine salt, baking powder, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pat the chicken dry and rub this mixture into the skin coating surface evenly.
Set chicken breast-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, 30-60 minutes ( I went 2 hours). Position chicken onto a vertical roaster.
Heat grill to medium hot. Place chicken on grill and close the lid. Roast for 45-60 minutes. When the chicken leg moves freely, the bird is done. Remove from grill. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes, it makes it easier to remove the vertical roasting apparatus.


  1. Baking powder? Who'd ever thought it. I loved this post. Imagine how different our lives would be if the apostles had been ranchers rather than fisherman.

  2. When I go to my asian super grocery store, they have something called Roast Pork, which is a whole slab of side belly that they dust with baking powder and cook it until it is soooooo crispy. Your chicken looks so yummy.

  3. Oh that's a keeper. Love the title of your site. Great recipes.
    Happy Twirls