Sunday, January 15, 2012

Practicing the art of cutting up a whole chicken

You're probably going to get really sick of me talking about my new cooking class, but with all of the cool stuff I'm learning, I hope I can pass on at least a few little gems of knowledge!

Or maybe even some big gems, like this week's lesson where we learned how to cut up a whole chicken. My parents can cut up chickens with their eyes closed, but despite their efforts to teach me, I've always been scared to do it myself. Even after watching my mostly vegetarian teacher make cutting up a chicken look like a cake walk, I still was scared and took forever making the tiny little cuts.

But this is culinary skill I definitely want to utilize — it's a much more inexpensive way to eat chicken, and it's such a great way to make broth (something we also did in class this week). So since practice makes perfect, I decided to give it a try on my own this weekend while it was still fresh in my mind (and without a teacher grading me on my skills or lack thereof!).

Not to shabby! Well, except for the gorgeous "oyster" in the middle. My still-untrained hand left the tenderest piece of the thigh on the carcass, so I cut it out anyway and just roasted it on its own. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again, but I think it's going to take a few more whole chickens before I get this one down.

We also were given free reign of the spice cabinet to make a roasted chicken breast in class, and I think mine turned out so delicious, I plan to make it again.

Cinnamon-and-Spice Roasted Chicken Breast

You can use any combination of your favorite spices mixed with olive oil to make roasted chicken breast, but on a chilly night this cinnamon-and-spice combination is sure to warm you to the bones.

1 boneless chicken breast, skin intact (or other similar-sized chicken pieces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon anise seed
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine olive oil and spices on a plate. Place chicken on the plate and rub the mixture onto both sides. Allow to marinate for 5 to 15 minutes.

Heat a dry, heavy skillet to medium-high. When skillet is hot but not smoking, place chicken in skillet, skin-side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to pop and looks cooked on the bottom quarter.

Turn breast over and place entire skillet in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: For a more intense flavor, try using whole spices and grinding them along with the anise seed and chile flakes.

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