Fire up the oven for full flavor, says America’s Test Kitchen

7:03 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Food

We know all about special occasion roasts – the turkey at Thanksgiving, the glazed ham at Christmas, the lamb at Easter and roast chicken at Rosh Hashana. But if you’re like me, you barely turn on the oven between holidays. 

Random days are for easy sautés or a quick toss of pasta, or maybe mindless, hands-off, slow-cooker stews. But a proper roast? Wouldn’t that require clearing out all the stored skillets from the oven? (Or is that just my situation?) 

Leave it to America’s Test Kitchen to offer more than 400 pages of reasons to roast. The culinary experts behind the Boston-based kitchen, “Cook’s Illustrated” and “Cook’s Country” magazines – as well as a continuous stream of meticulously detailed cookbooks – have just released a roasting bible. The book, “How to Roast Everything: A Game-Changing Guide to Building Flavor in Meat, Vegetables, and More” (America’s Test Kitchen, $35), entices us to fire up the oven to roast any of the 295 sturdy, traditional dishes. 

“Something magical happens when you roast a chicken, beef tenderloin, a pork shoulder – or fish, vegetables, or even fruit,” goes the book’s introduction. “The alchemy of heat, caramelization, fat, and flavorings is transformative, but only if you have the right techniques.” 

The gist of it all is this: Master 10 “essential roasts” – all illustrated with the Test Kitchen’s signature tutorials – and you’ll command the techniques for a world of tangential recipes. 

Where to begin on your roasting adventures? How about pan-roasted chicken breasts, thick-cut rib-eye steaks and a side of salmon? 

Take your pick and turn on that oven. (After you remove your stashed skillets, of course.)  

RECIPES 

The following recipes are adapted from the newly released cookbook, “How to Roast Everything” (January, $35) with permission of America’s Test Kitchen.  

Steve Klise/ America's Test Kitchen
The method in this recipe helps prevent the delicate white meat in the chicken breasts from drying out.

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Shallot-Thyme Sauce 

Recipe notes: Pan roasting helps yield a chicken breast that’s moist with crispy skin. Follow the oven temperature and roasting time for the proper finish. 

You’ll need a 12‑inch ovensafe skillet. If using kosher chicken, do not brine. If brining the chicken, do not season with salt in step 1. 

Serves 4 

Chicken 

4 (12‑ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed, brined if desired 

Salt and pepper 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

Sauce 

1 large shallot, minced 

3/4 cup chicken broth 

1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine 

2 sprigs fresh thyme 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces and chilled 

Salt and pepper 

For the chicken:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Heat oil in 12‑inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook breasts, skin side down, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip breasts and brown lightly on second side, about 3 minutes. Flip breasts skin side down, transfer skillet to oven, and roast until chicken registers 160 degrees, 15 to 18 minutes. 
  3. Remove skillet from oven (skillet handle will be hot). Transfer chicken to serving dish and let rest while making sauce. 

For the sauce:

  1. Being careful of hot skillet handle, pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat left in skillet. Add shallot and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, vermouth, and thyme sprigs, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened and measures 2/3 cup, about 6 minutes. 
  2. Discard thyme sprigs and stir in any accumulated chicken juices. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve. 

Variations 

Daniel J. van Ackere/ America's Test Kitchen
Roasting thick-cut steaks can be tricky, but this rib-eye recipe helps ensure a good crust and rosy interior.

Roasted Thick-Cut Rib-Eye Steaks 

Recipe notes: This recipe calls for roasting the steaks in a low oven until almost cooked through, then searing them on stovetop for a proper crust. 

This recipe moves quickly once you start searing, so have everything prepared and within arm’s reach before you start. We prefer these steaks cooked to medium-rare.  

Serves 4 to 6  

2 (13/4- to 2‑pound) bone-in rib-eye steaks, 2 inches thick, trimmed 

Kosher salt and pepper 

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 large shallot, peeled and quartered through root end 

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled 

5 sprigs fresh thyme  

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Pat steaks dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place steaks on prepared rack and roast until thermometer inserted into side of steak registers 90 to 95 degrees, 30 to 50 minutes, flipping steaks halfway through roasting.  
  2. Heat oil in 12‑inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Cook steaks, without moving, for 30 seconds. Flip steaks and continue to cook, flipping every 30 seconds, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  
  3. Slide steaks to back of skillet, opposite handle, and add butter to front of skillet. Once butter has melted, add shallot, garlic, and thyme sprigs. Holding skillet handle, tilt skillet so butter pools near base of handle. Using metal spoon, baste steaks with butter and aromatics, concentrating on areas where crust is less browned. Continuously baste steaks, flipping every 30 seconds, until steaks register 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 1 to 3 minutes.  
  4. Transfer steaks to carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Strain seasoned butter into small bowl; discard solids. Carve steaks off bones, then slice into 1/4‑inch-thick slices. Serve with seasoned butter.  

Variations 

Daniel J. van Ackere/ America’s Test Kitchen
Juniper berries and grated orange zest lend floral flavors to this roast side of salmon.

Roast Side of Salmon with Orange Beurre Blanc 

Recipe notes: Toast the juniper and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute, and then remove the skillet from the heat so the spices won't scorch.

If your knife is not sharp enough to cut through the skin easily, try a serrated knife. Heavy-duty aluminum foil measuring 18 inches wide is essential for creating a sling that aids in transferring the cooked fish to a cutting board or serving dish.  

Serves 4 to 6 

Salmon 

15 juniper berries, toasted 

3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted 

1 teaspoon grated orange zest 

1/2 teaspoon sugar 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon pepper 

1 (13/4- to 2‑pound) center-cut skin-on side of salmon, pinbones removed 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil  

Orange Beurre Blanc 

3 tablespoons dry white wine 

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 

1 small shallot, minced 

Salt 

1 tablespoon heavy cream 

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled 

1/8 teaspoon sugar 

1/8 teaspoon grated orange zest  

For the salmon:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Grind juniper and fennel in spice grinder or in mortar and pestle until coarsely ground. Transfer spices to small bowl and stir in orange zest, sugar, salt, and pepper.  
  2. Cut piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to be 1 foot longer than side of salmon and fold lengthwise into thirds. Make 8 shallow slashes, about 3 inches long and 1 inch apart, on skin side of salmon, being careful not to cut into flesh. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and lay skin side down on foil. Rub flesh side of salmon with oil, then rub with spice mixture.  
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees. Using foil sling, lay salmon on preheated sheet and roast until center is still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 14 to 18 minutes.  

For the orange beurre blanc:

  1. Bring wine, vinegar, shallot, and pinch salt to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat and cook until about 2 scant tablespoons of liquid remain, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in cream. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition until butter is incorporated and forms thick, pale yellow sauce, 30 to 60 seconds. Off heat, whisk in sugar. Strain sauce through fine mesh strainer into bowl. Stir in orange zest and season with salt to taste.  
  2. Using foil sling, transfer salmon to cutting board (or serving dish). Run thin metal spatula between salmon skin and salmon to loosen. Using spatula to hold salmon in place on cutting board or serving dish, gently pull foil out from underneath salmon. Serve with beurre blanc.
Keller + Keller/ America's Test Kitchen