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How-To

A Marinade for Roast Chicken Makes a Great Pan Sauce, Too

Fine Cooking Issue 62
Photo: Scott Phillips
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During this hectic season, wouldn’t it be nice to come home from a busy day and have dinner all ready to go in the oven? And not just any dinner, but a delicious dish of marinated chicken? The roasted chicken not only tastes great (choose your favorite flavor profile from the recipes), but it also has a bonus: a richly flavored pan sauce you make from the reduced marinade. And you do all of the prep work in advance—up to 24 hours ahead.  

The secret is cooking the chicken and the marinade together. Instead of discarding the marinade, you pour it into the pan along with the chicken. In about the time it takes to cook the chicken (around an hour), the marinade and the chicken juices reduce to a flavorful essence. After removing the chicken from the oven, you tilt the pan and spoon the fat out—leaving behind all the delicious pan drippings. Add  a few tablespoons of water and vigorously stir and scrape the pan, and you’ve got an incredibly flavorful pan sauce.  

Pyrex pans—inexpensive and sold in supermarkets—are perfect for these recipes because you can see the pan drippings so well. For these recipes, I like to use one 10×15-inch Pyrex baking dish or two 7×11-inch ones. If you use a different kind of roasting pan, be sure it’s shallow and that the dimensions are similar. If the pan is too small, the marinade won’t reduce enough; if it’s too big, the marinade might reduce too quickly and start to burn.   

Everyone can get a bit of both white and dark meat. I’ve called for four thighs and two breasts (you’ll cut each breast in half after cooking), because I think one thigh and half a breast, served on a mound of mashed potatoes or rice pilaf and drizzled with a little pan sauce, makes a nice presentation. But you could certainly use any combination of your favorite bonein pieces. Look for chicken pieces that aren’t too different in size; these days, some chicken breasts are huge. I prefer the smaller ones, and I flatten them slightly to help them cook more evenly. Don’t be tempted to remove the skin, as it keeps the chicken moist during cooking and absorbs a lot of the flavor of the marinade.  

One more tip: Seal the bowl of marinating chicken in plastic before refrigerating. There’s a healthy dose of garlic in each marinade, and wrapping tightly will keep everything else in your refrigerator from becoming garlic scented.

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