The Basic Art of Roasting
A traditional method of cooking that’s still a favorite today.

The cold weather is upon us, and though Dallas has a milder winter than most, it’s still the perfect season for a hearty, flavorful meal. For professional and home cooks, roasting is the easiest way to seal in succulence and deepen flavor without adding additional fat. Proper roasting technique varies taste and texture, creating robust meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and even fruits while providing the cook with elegant entrees, side dishes, and sauces. 

 

CHEF’S TIPS

Trussing (tying your roast into a tight bundle with butcher’s twine) promotes even cooking and uniformity.

Searing the roast adds deep, rich flavors and locks in moisture.

Thermometers are a quick and accurate way to check the doneness of the roast.

Carry-over cooking (the tendency for a roast to rise in temperature after it has been removed from the oven) can increase the roast’s temperature 10 to 20 degrees, depending on its size.

Resting the roast allows juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it tender and juicy.

The key to roasting lies in the caramelization (browning and intensifying) of surface sugars during the initial searing phase. Searing also serves to seal in moisture, guaranteeing a juicy interior. During the subsequent cooking process the juices that are released mix with the vegetables, creating a "perfume" that is introduced back into the cooking roast. The aromas of all the ingredients intermingle to create the distinguishing taste associated with roasted foods.

For a classic side dish add sliced potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions to the roasting pan (arrange around the protein), or jazz things up with artichokes, fennel, parsnips, and seasonal squashes. You can also fill your roast with any of the infinite variations of stuffing.

The juices and bits that have accumulated in the roasting pan need only minimal finessing to become a full-fledged sauce that is rich in flavor, precisely complementing the natural seasoning palette developed within your roast.

Prepare large portions to guarantee satisfying leftovers - pile up a gourmet sandwich on artisan bread, enhance an otherwise plain salad, or transform your usual "brown bag" at the office into a banquet. No matter how you slice it, roasting provides you with maximum flavor and variety with minimal work. 

HIP TIP: Marinades are a great way to introduce flavor to a dish. The longer you marinate, the more flavor the meat will absorb, but marinades are most effective when allowed to work at room temperature. Try to marinate your meats for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature before refrigerating or cooking; the resulting flavor will be much more pronounced.

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RECIPES: Chef Andrea Alexander, CEC - one of my favorite instructors at the Art Institute - was kind enough to provide the following recipes. "I love simple, well-cooked food," says Chef Alexander. "I believe in letting ingredients stand on their own integrity."

Roasted Chicken
(serves 4)

 1     whole chicken
 1/4  cup oil (olive or vegetable)
 1/2  fresh lemon
 1     onion, quartered
 1     stalk celery
 1     carrot
 1     bay leaf
 2     garlic cloves
 5     sprigs fresh thyme
 5     sprigs fresh oregano
        Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and wash chicken. Dry with paper towels (important for crisp skin). Season chicken thoroughly with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with carrot, onion, celery, lemon, and bay leaf. Place herb sprigs under the skin of breasts and truss the bird with butcher’s twine. Place chicken on rack and into a preheated 500-degree oven. Oven-sear for about 20 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and cook an additional 30-45 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 155 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

Mustard and Jalape Glazed Salmon
(serves 4)

 20      ounces Atlantic salmon, skinned and cut into 5 portions
 3        ounces Dijon mustard
 1 1/2  tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
 2        tablespoons corn syrup
 3        tablespoons pickled jalap’s
 1/2     teaspoon lemon pepper

Excluding the salmon, add all ingredients to a blender and purée. Brush glaze mixture over salmon, place on rack, and broil 5 minutes for medium-rare.

Roasted Cornish Hen with Pancetta and Pan Sauce
(serves 4)

 4     Cornish hens
 3/4  teaspoon salt
 1     teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
 3     ounces pancetta, thinly sliced
 4     each shallots, minced
 1/4  cup port wine
 1     cup white wine
 2     tablespoons demi-glaze, prepared or store-bought
 1     tablespoon butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse hens and dry well with paper towels. Remove skin and season the outside of the bird and inside the cavity with salt and pepper. Truss the bird with butcher’s twine. Cover breast and leg meat with pancetta, securing with twine if necessary. Arrange birds breast-side-down in hot skillet. Place skillet in oven and cook for 20 minutes, until pancetta begins to render its fat. Turn birds over and cook an additional 20-25 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 145 degrees. Remove birds and keep warm until ready to serve. Remove excess fat from pan and sauté shallots until deep brown. Deglaze pan with port wine and reduce by half.  Add white wine and reduce by half. Stir in demi-glaze and butter to finish the sauce.

Roasted Vegetable Salad
(serves 6)

 1/2  pound eggplant, diced
 1/2  pound zucchini, diced
 1/2  pound yellow squash, diced
 1/2  pound red onion, diced
 1/8  cup oil (olive or vegetable)
 1/2  tablespoon dried thyme
 1/2  cup roasted red pepper, diced
 2     ounces feta cheese
 1/8  cup capers
 1/2  tablespoon red pepper flakes
 1     tablespoon fresh oregano
        Salt and pepper to taste

Dice eggplant, sprinkle heavily with salt, and let sit in a colander for about 20 minutes to pull out bitterness and excess moisture. Cut remaining vegetables approximately the same size. Toss all vegetables lightly with the oil and season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Roast in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Remove from oven, add remaining ingredients, adjust salt, and serve.

Basic Marinade for Meats and Seafood

 1     tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
 1     tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
 1     tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
 3     tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
 1     teaspoon cracked black pepper
 1/2  cup olive oil
 4     cloves garlic, minced
        Zest of one whole lemon

Chop and combine all herbs and add minced garlic, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Coat roast or seafood well and refrigerate for several hours.

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Roasting Tips & Tricks

How to Roast Perfectly:
Red Meat
1. Truss
the roast
2. Pan-sear until deep brown
3. Season well
4. Roast to proper temperature
5. Rest for 10 to 20 minutes
6. Sauce preparation

Poultry
1. Season well
2. Truss the bird
3. Oven-sear the roast
4. Roast to proper temperature
5. Rest for 10 to 20 minutes
6. Sauce preparation

Sauce
1. Drain excess fat from pan
2. Caramelize (saut until deep brown) aromatic vegetables
3. Deglaze with a liquid (wine, stock, etc.)
4. Simmer to reduce the liquid
5. Strain if desired and adjust seasoning

Use Temperatures, Not Time
Gauging by temperature rather than time is a better way to guarantee quality in your roast. Be sure to account for carry-over cooking that occurs after the roast is removed from the oven.

  • Poultry... 165 degrees
  • Pork... 145 degrees
  • Fish... 145 degrees
  • Red Meat:
    Rare... 120-140 degrees
    Medium... 140-150 degrees
    Well... 150+ degrees
Recommended Reading:

Theory & Practice of Good Cooking by James Beard
Roasting - A Simple Art by Barbara Kafka
High Heat: Grilling and Roasting Year-Round by Master Chef Waldy Malouf