Julianne and I were in Saskatoon in October for the Saskatchewan Ultra 50 Km race (Yes. I ran around Saskatoon for 50 kilometres). We stopped by the Bulk Cheese Warehouse and among other smoked goodness, picked up a beautiful butterflied smoked chicken. I know… The name “Bulk Cheese Warehouse” does not scream quality meats but they have a fantastic butcher shop. We brought a cooler with us because we were planning on bringing some tasty smoked treats back from Saskatoon.
Smoking meats is a way of cooking, preserving and flavouring. Cold smoking is all about adding flavour. Rich smokey flavour that doesn’t come from a bottle of Liquid Smoke. Cold smoking makes meats taste awesome.
I took the chicken out of the freezer on Sunday night with the intention of making for supper on Monday. It’s tough to throw a full chicken meal (I’m thinking chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and maybe carrots) together after work so we decided to go minimalist and just have roast beets with it. We had the most amazing roast beets with a meal in Victoria and from then on had a love for roast beets. I’ve prepared fresh beets before and they taste fantastic but they take a fair amount of time and energy to prepare. Canned beets are a REALLY quick and easy way to get to roasting beets without having to peel, boil and work like hell to get the colour off of your cutting board and fingers.
Here’s how dinner went down and you won’t believe how easy it was to make two tasty dishes with very little effort. I’d never made this butterflied smoked chicken before so I decided not to salt it at all. I could add salt after the cooking process if it needed it. The chicken looked like it was prepared with some spices so all I added to it was a little powdered garlic and some smoked paprika. The chicken is butterflied. That’s a fancy way of saying that they’ve cut out the backbone and spread the bird out flat. This actually makes it easier to cook the bird evenly. Roasting a whole chicken can be a tricky thing. The breast gets cooked right but the thighs are not fully cooked…or the thighs are done just right but the breast is way too dry. A butterflied chicken is a joy to roast. It does present one problem though. It cooks quickly so there’s little chance of getting the perfect crispy skin. Since this bird has been smoked it’s got some amazing flavour locked in that skin. I don’t want that to go to waste and there’s an easy fix. A chicken is typically cooked when it reaches 180 degrees F. I put the probe for an electronic meat thermometer in the meatiest part of a thigh and let it roast in a 375 degree F oven until it hit 160 F. At that point I moved it up to the top rack and switched the oven to broil (500 F). You need to keep an eye on it when it’s broiling because the temperature will climb to 180 F really quickly. That simple two-stage roasting technique will give you a juicy, fully cooked bird, that just happens to have perfectly crispy skin.
I used some fancy schmancy ingredients to make this but it can be done with a regular chicken, normal olive oil and everyday, run of the mill balsamic vinegar.
Cold Smoked Roast Chicken
1 – Butterflied Cold Smoked Chicken
Light dusting of garlic powder
Even lighter dusting of smoked paprika (can’t have too much smokey flavour, eh?)
Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Place butterflied chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on the bottom rack of the oven. Roast until an internal thermometer reads 160 F (test in the meatiest part of a thigh). That chicken is mostly done. Now’s the time to put it on the top rack and switch your oven from bake to broil (500 F). Keep a sharp eye on that bird because the temperature is going to climb quickly. Once the bird’s internal temperature hits 180 F it’s time to take ‘er out. Cover the chicken in aluminum foil. You want to let that chicken rest for about 5 to 10 minutes so the juices distribute back into the tissues. It’s also still cooking and it’s internal temperature will actually rise after it come out of the oven (Don’t know why… it’s science). If you cut it up right after it comes out of the oven it will let all of it’s tasty juices out on the cutting board and may not be fully cooked (you’ve been warned… forgo resting your meat at your own peril). Once it’s rested cut it up and serve.
Supper Easy Roast Beets
2 – Cans – Safeway brand Whole beets
Generous glug of olive oil (I used Nudo Stone Ground Garlic Oil)
Equal sized glug of balsamic vinegar (used Vanilla flavoured balsamic vinegar from Oliv)
Salt an pepper to taste
Open and drain the beets. Give them a couple rinses under the tap until the juice that runs off isn’t so red/pink. Dump the cans into a bowl and add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Throw the whole mess on a baking sheet and chuck it in the oven. Since I was doing this along with the chicken I put the chicken on the bottom rack and the beets on the top rack. The oven was still at 375 F. The beets didn’t go in at the same time as the chicken. They went in about 10 minutes after the chicken. When I switched to broil I put the beets on the bottom rack and the chicken on the top rack. When I took the chicken out to rest I put the beets back on the top rack and let them broil for a while. That sounds overly complicated for supper easy roast beets. If you’re making these without the chicken then you can put them in a 375 F oven for 30 – 45 minutes. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar over them before serving. You want to server the beets fairly soon after they come out of the oven. They cool off quickly.