I learned a new technique for roasting whole birds using a cast iron skillet and thick slabs of root vegetables as the roasting base! With great zeal, I’ve been sharing it with everyone who will listen. The thought here is to keep the bird off the base of the skillet avoiding yucky-soggy or dry spots on the bottom of the bird. Oh, and the veggies are heavenly. This is quick, easy and delicious, plus it makes for great meals in the week to come. Cold salads, soups, wraps or breakfast scrambles can be made with the addition of a few fresh ingredients.
Veggie and Flavor Pairings
Use herbs and spices on the bird to complement your veggie base. I cut the root veggies into about 1” rounds (slabs). All three of these dishes were a fragrant delight to cook and eat! My hubby liked the first one the best.
– Yellow onion with dried apricot, basil and pineapple balsamic sauce *
– Yukon gold potato with fresh parsley, basil, oregano and a whole lemon from my garden.
– Butternut squash with Indian seasonings: curry, turmeric, nutmeg, onion and garlic powder.
Possible variations of veggie bases: celery root, rutabaga, parsnip, fennel bulb, eggplant, daikon radish or a combination of several. I use what is on hand or in my garden.
Prep your veggie base and assemble your flavorings
I like to let the bird come to room temperature. While the refrigerator chill is coming off the bird, put your ingredients together. Tip: I blend my dry spices and herbs in a bowl before rubbing the bird down with it. If you use the shaker top on spice bottles you get blotches of flavor here and there instead of a balanced bite when it’s cooked. It speeds the prep-process and avoids getting raw meat on your spice bottles. With liquid flavorings, make a sauce on the stove or use a blender. The extra step is worth it.
Prep your bird
Here’s the trick to making this bird great! When prepping the bird, separate the membrane that attaches the skin to the breast meat. Use your hand (or a tablespoon if your squeamish) to gently pull the membrane free of the skin and meat. This allows the fat to fully render. Remove the innards and any excess fat along the neckline. Wash and dry the bird. Leave the skin on and salt the skin, meat and cavity Tie its legs together with cotton twine and tuck the wing tips under themselves so they don’t burn. SALT IT GOOD. I don’t believe salt and pepper should be married together in every dish. I don’t put black pepper on raw meat because it burns at high temperatures and turns bitter.
This technique works for turkeys, too. I roasted a 10 pound, breast meat with bone in turkey for Christmas. Side Note: I fashioned a roasting rack from a rectangle glass casserole dish and hibachi BBQ grate. It rendered beautifully without any dry or soggy spots.
Assemble and roast
Lightly spray cast iron skillet with olive oil. Arrange veggie rounds on the bottom, give them a good solid sprinkling of salt and place the seasoned bird directly on top. Roast in a preheated oven at a high 425 degree oven for 20 minutes and then 350 degrees for 20 minutes to finish cooking to the bone. That’s for an 8 pound bird. Let the bird rest for about 10-15 minutes (if you can!)
Sauce* Dried apricot, basil and pineapple balsamic vinegar. About 1 ½ cups dried apricot, 5 +/- large fresh basil leaves, 2 Tb brown sugar, ¼ c pineapple balsamic vinegar, ½ tsp salt. Use what you have in approximate ratios for the size of bird. Let the apricots soak on the stove in the warm balsamic for about 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients.