Am I slow-roasting or being slow-roasted?

It’s hotter than Georgia asphalt here in LA. And on this scorching September afternoon, firmly planted three feet away from my fan, I feel myself slow-roasting. I have a sweat mustache. It’s as though I’m in a really un-sexy Tennessee Williams moment. It’s too early to open the white wine. Oh, how I suffer.

Slow-roasting is a fascinating, yet simple, concept and process – and one that occupies an oddly prominent and quite interesting nook of my life, in the kitchen and beyond. It requires complacent confidence and infinite patience, neither of which are my strongest suits.

"The theory behind slow-roasting has the simplicity of genius. If the oven is set at the desired internal temperature of the meat, then the meat can never overcook because no part of it is subjected to a temperature above the optimum." This is essentially transferring heat from the outside of the roast to the inside by conductance. The physical process is the same whether the oven is at 400 degrees or 200 degrees. The benefit of slow roasting something is less moisture loss and a more tender product. Oddly however, at the moment, I find myself feeling quite overcooked and dehydrated. Hmpf.

Even though, more often than not, pot roast comes to mind, in actuality one can slow-roast just about anything. Short ribs, pork shoulder, venison, chicken, duck, salmon and even tomatoes can all benefit from this method of cooking. For slow-roasting some people use crock-pots, others use ovens and recently, I used my grill and a chicken.

Slow-Roasted Chicken
1 3 1/2-4 pound chicken
1/4 cup butter, 1/2 of it melted
2 lemons
salt and pepper
additional herbs and spices as desired

Heat oven and roasting pan (sans rack) to 350F. Slice two lemons super thin. Gently loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Insert a handful of lemon slices underneath the skin along with some butter. Put any unused slices and the ends of the lemons into the cavity.

Place the chicken breast-side up on the rack, brush with melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and herbs.

Place chicken in the heated roasting pan in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 200F and continue roasting for another hour. Increase heat to 400F and cook another 15 minutes until a thermometer inserted into thigh registers 160F.

Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

*In the above recipe, the initial 350F heat quickly cooks the outside (and skin). The reduced 200F heat keeps the outside hot at about the same rate as the cooler interior absorbs the heat. The final 400F period browns the exterior for those wonderful Maillard reactions.

The result, with something like a chicken or turkey is that the thighs and the breast approach doneness at something much closer to simultaneously and even if the breast is a bit overcooked when the thighs are done, the additional juiciness makes up for it.

Me, I’m still roasting. But dusk is just around the corner, and with that comes wine o’clock. As for you, may your home be air conditioned, your wine crisp and cold, and your fortitude in slow-roasting be met with successful results.

"It ain't the heat; it's the humility." -Yogi Berra

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