The first problem was the skillet. Since the technique involves putting the entire skillet into the oven, you obviously need an oven-safe skillet. We had a nice, large skillet that would work well from a size/shape point of view. Unfortunately, ours had a heat-insulated handle. That sort of handle cannot go into the oven. So, I shopped around a little. Williams Sonoma had several nice skillets starting at a mere $250. Such Williams Sonoma products are quite the thing if you have a palatial ranch-style home with views of a beautiful lake and you need some decorations to hang on the wall of its enormous kitchen. However, my interest was more in cooking. Next stop: Goodwill. There I found a perfectly serviceable, 13″ Calphalon skillet for $8.
Cooks Country also recommended an electric carving knife. As the Cooks Country host remarked, electric carving knives are sort of ridiculous things for anything else, but for carving poultry they work really well. Fortunately, we happen to have one of these already.
The original recipe complete with an instructional video is available here: Cooks Country Skillet-Roasted Chicken and Stuffing Unfortunately, Cooks Country requires you to sign up for a 14-day free trial of their service including giving them your credit card number so they can start billing you on day 14. We are not currently in the mode of signing up for new automatically recurring expenses at the moment.
So I looked around some more and found this nice clone recipe:
Skillet Chicken with Dressing that in fact credits Cooks Country.
The recipe from Framed Cooks did not mention deboning the chicken, something that was a key part of what had intrigued me about the original Cooks Country show. I looked around and found this excellent step-by-step explanation of how to debone a chicken: Debone Poultry
The entire process took about two and one-half hours from start to sitting down to eat. I guess that if I did it again a few times I would reduce that time somewhat, but I doubt that it would ever get much below two hours.
6:12PM – Setting Up
Unpacking groceries. Arranging equipment, etc. I also moved our Android tablet to the kitchen and brought up the deboning procedure in order to be able to look at the pictures while fumblling around with the chicken. This idea worked pretty well and the tablet can be wiped off afterwards, unlike a paper-printed recipe. However, if I do that again, I will look into figuring out how to adjust the Android settings so the screen does not lock up and go blank after 5 seconds.
6:17PM – Sharpen Knives
In deboning the chicken, you are going to have your fingers inside this slippery mess of flesh, fat, and bones. You really do not want to be using a dull knife. I ran all of our knives through the sharpener.
6:25PM – Oven On
Set oven for 375F. Wash and dry the freshly sharpened knives.
6:28PM – Setup Digital Thermometer
We used to have a few of these. When we downsized from our house to an apartment, they got lost. I found a new one for $15 at the grocery store. Set that new unit up and make sure it is working.
6:33PM – Debone ChickenMy first try. It took me 35 minutes. The wikihow instructions were very helpful. However, it is really hard to visualize from pictures on a website. You really just have to get your hands on a chicken, cut into the back, and start working on it. Now that I have done one, the next time I will be able to look at the internet videos and have some sense of what is going on and what the videos recommend in terms of tips and tricks.
7:08PM – Prep Stuffing IngredientsThis is the part that is always hilarious in television cooking shows. The chefs on the screen merrily tosses this-that-and-the-other together from neat little bowls. They never mention the amount of time that their slaves spent peeling, slicing, chopping, and measuring to get all of those ingredients ready. This step took 23 minutes.
7:35PM – Begin AssemblyRub two tablespoons of the butter on the chicken. I found that it was somewhat helpful to cut the butter in small pieces. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan. Add the celery and the onions to the pan and saute for five minutes until soft. Sprinkle half of the Sage and Thyme into the celery/onion mix and stir. Nestle the chicken in the pan, breast side up. The original recipe said something like “Place the bread cubes around the chicken” With a 6.1 pound chicken in a 13″ skillet, there was not a lot of extra space. I really had to stuff the bread cubes in the margins. Sprinkle the remaining herbs over the chicken.
7:46PM – Into the OvenThe standard instructions for the digital thermometer probe call for the probe to be inserted into the thickest part of the drumstick. In this case, however, I deboned the thighs, leaving them a little less dense and rather torn up inside. I inserted the probe sort of horizontally into the thickest part of the (much more intact) breast muscle.
Immediately after putting the chicken into the oven, the thermometer read 61F.
Now, the original Framed Cooks recipe called for a cooking time of 90 minutes and a target internal temperature of 175F. Both were not correct. The USDA recommends 165 degrees as fully cooked and the temperature of the bird will continue to rise after you take it out of the oven. 160F is a better target and was in fact programmed into the thermometer as a factory default target temperature. As for the time, the prediction of the deboning instructions was correct: the deboned bird cooks much faster than the bird with the bone still in. This one cooked in 45 minutes.You really have to watch it carefully and be well organized and ready to go as the temperature gets above 130F. Near the end, the temperature was going up 2.5 degrees/minute. That is really moving and if you are disorganized and have to go rummage around in the garage to find something at that point, you will overcook the chicken.
8:34PM – Out of the OvenAfter you pull the chicken out of the oven, gently move the chicken to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil so it can rest for five minutes or so while you finish up the stuffing.
8:35PM – Finish the StuffingAdd a half-cup of chicken broth to the stuffing and stir. Continue to simmer over low heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the fluid is absorbed.
8:40PM – Let Stuffing RestOnce the fluid is absorbed, remove the stuffing from the heat, cover, and allow to rest for five minutes or so while you carve the chicken.
8:41PM – Carve the ChickenAfter all that work, the chicken is really easy to carve. You simply slice vertically into slices with the electric carving knife, sort of like cutting slices of a meatloaf. This carving approach is really nice because the slices are pretty and neat and each slice has a ribbon of the skin around the edge.
8:46PM – Sit Down to EatFinally ready to eat!
The one thing missing from this recipe is gravy. I think that it should be easy enough to modify the recipe slightly to move the stuffing to a serving bowl to rest and using the remaining stuff in the pan to make a gravy. I will try that next time. In the mean time, we had a nice salad with the chicken and stuffing and used some Louisiana Hot Sauce as a replacement for the missing gravy.