Cooking or Science: Chicken in Salt

Years ago a friend of mine told me about this insane way to make roast chicken only using coarse salt. She was shocked that I had never heard of it before. Many of you may already know this method, but for those of you who don’t, this is really a must-have recipe/method to add to your cooking arsenal. I really believe that anyone who cooks in any way should know how to cook chicken like this because it’s the chicken you’ll make when you have absolutely no time to cook.

I decided to post this following a conversation I had last Shabbat at shul with one of the women in my community. She told me that she reads all my recipes, with the emphasis on “reads”. “I won’t make anything that takes more than one bowl to prepare,” she answered when I asked her why she doesn’t take the next step and cook the recipes. So this chicken is for her – if she doesn’t make this one, then I admit defeat!

This is less of a recipe and more of a method as there’s nothing to it. Clearly, science is at work here, as the evaporating salt interacts with the chicken and does its magic. With absolutely no ingredients besides the chicken and the salt, you end up with a succulent, golden brown, very tasty roast chicken. An added bonus is that the salt draws the fat of the chicken out, so the chicken isn’t sitting in oily goo at the end of the cooking process.

I serve this with roast potatoes (recipe below) but you can serve it with anything you want.

ROAST CHICKEN IN SALT

Ingredients

1 whole chicken (about 1.5 kg / 3 lbs)

About 500 g (1 lb) coarse salt (“melach mitbach ragil” in Hebrew)

Line the roasting pan with coarse salt

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. In a roasting pan lined with baking paper or a disposable roasting dish, line all the sides with about 2-3 cm (1 inch) of coarse salt. Leave enough room for the chicken to be placed in the center without touching the salt.

3. Place the chicken breast side down in the middle of the pan and cook for 1 – 1¼ hours. You can test to see if the chicken is cooked by pricking the thigh with a fork. If clear juice runs out then the chicken is cooked. It should also be a golden brown color.

Place the chicken in the middle of the salt

Roast chicken - done and golden brown

ROAST POTATOES

1. Peel and rinse about 2-3 potatoes per person (when I make this, no matter how many I make, there are never leftovers.)

2. Cut the potatoes into either bite sized pieces or cut in quarters for larger roast potatoes.

3. For quartered potatoes, par boil the potatoes first (Israeli potatoes are very hard and require par boiling. If your potatoes are softer, you may not need this step). Place potatoes in a large pot of cold water. bring to the boil and allow to cook for about 5 minutes – make sure the potatoes don’t cook, they just need to get to a stage where a fork can start piercing them. Drain till dry.

4. For par boiled potatoes and bite sized pieces (which you need to pat dry with paper towels): Line a large roasting pan with baking paper. Pour a good layer of oil into the pan (make sure that the whole surface of the pan is covered). Add the potatoes and toss them in the oil until all sides of all the potatoes are coated in oil – if necessary, add more oil. Sprinkle a little salt and finely ground pepper and toss around.

5. Place the pan in a pre-heated 180°C (350°F) oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Then stir the potatoes around and bake for another 20 minutes. Stir again, and keep going until all sides of the potatoes are rich golden brown. Be careful not to tear the baking paper when you are stirring the potatoes or to break the potatoes – I recommend using a rubber spoon or lifter and only stirring once in a while.

Salt roasted chicken served with roast potatoes

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