Whether or not you're a fan of crispy skin, have you ever thought about seasoning under it? This is one of our favorite ways to prepare whole birds since the skin seals in the juices while the herbs and spices trapped beneath gently season the otherwise bland meat. Here's how we do it along with some of our favorite spice combinations:
With a little gentle coercion, the skin covering the breast and thigh meat will loosen from the chicken. Start by sliding your fingers between the meat and the skin, entering at either end of the chicken. Working slowly, separate as much of the skin from the meat as you can reach (this is where small hands become an asset!).
Grab a few tablespoons of the seasoning mixture and use your fingers to push it beneath the loosened skin. Rub it directly into the meat as evenly as possible. You can massage the outside of the bird to distribute the seasoning to the areas that you can't reach directly.
Once seasoned, the bird can be roasted or poached as normal.
It's easy to make a spice rub by combining the ingredients already being used in the roast. If we're cooking a basic lemon-garlic chicken, we prepare a spice rub of minced garlic, lemon zest, thyme, salt, and pepper - essentially a mix of the same ingredients that we'll be stuffing inside the bird! Other favorites mixes include:
• cumin, minced garlic, chili powder, lime juice or zest, salt, and pepper
• Chinese five spice blend, orange juice or zest, salt, and pepper
• sage, herbes de provence, and course sea salt
A few tablespoons of spices are enough to season a 3-5 pound bird and any extra can be rubbed inside the cavity. A little olive oil or softened butter in the rub adds its own flavor and can also help make the spices easier to spread under the skin. If we want a hint of smokiness, we add a little ground lapsang souchong or smoked paprika to the rub.
And although we've been talking about whole birds in this post, you can definitely use this technique with skin-on chicken breasts. You can do it with skinless chicken breasts as well, we suppose, though you'll lose the benefits of the skin keeping the meat moist.
What's your favorite combination of seasonings for poultry?
Related: Basic Techniques: Eight Ways to Build Flavor
(Image: Flickr member faeryboots licensed under Creative Commons)