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Roasting at 450 degrees has plenty of advantages

By Marlene Parrish
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What’s your magic number? Seven? Eleven? Your bank PIN?
My go-to number in the kitchen is 450. As in 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Very, very, hot.
I like what roasting at high temperatures does. It’s fast when I’m impatient. Meats turn out browned, rare and juicy. Vegetables, and fruits, too, collapse and concentrate their flavors.
This has been a favorite way to roast since I tested recipes from “Roasting” by Barbara Kafka for a book review long ago. In her 1995 cookbook she says, “When you’re hungry, roast. When you’re in a rush, roast. When you’re in doubt, roast. When you’re entertaining, roast.” Smart lady. Good plan.
Roast a whole chicken
To get all the meat done but still juicy, slide the bird into a preheated cast-iron skillet and place it in a 450-degree oven. After about 30 minutes, the heat is turned off, but the bird stays in the oven to finish cooking. The chicken is done in just one hour, and both dark (or what passes for dark meat these days) and white meat are tender, juicy and perfectly cooked to their correct temperatures.
The recipe, foolproof and dead-simple, is just the answer for those of us who cook for one or two. Often, we’ve downsized our homes, and although our new kitchens may be small, they always include an oven. And who doesn’t love a roast chicken?
Roast a wholebeef tenderloin
It takes a good measure of confidence and faith to blast this pricey, unforgiving cut and expect it to turn out rare. But our tested recipe is worth the angst. The pre-seasoned beef is browned and seared thoroughly on all sides, giving it a head start on the cooking. To finish, it is placed in a preheated hot oven to roast for a mere 10 to 20 minutes, then it is transferred to a board to rest. Result? Brown, beautiful crust, pink and juicy interior. Once done, serve the feast when you are good and ready because the roast will wait. I like it either warm or at room temperature. Pass an orange-creme fraiche horseradish sauce for company. Do hope for enough leftovers to make sliced roast beef sandwiches the next day.
Quickie chicken and mushroom lasagna
No-boil lasagna noodles and rotisserie chicken are lifesavers. They turn this all-day-in-the-kitchen classic into a practical weeknight supper. This ingredient change-up is a lighter take on the Italian red-sauce version. The recipe comes from “Gourmet Weekday,” a series of cookbooks being published by Conde Nast.
Roasted vegetables
Expect veggie pieces to shrink in size as they cook, losing water while concentrating flavors. That’s a good thing because your family will tend to eat more. Try to roast foods with similar densities together, such as potatoes, carrots and onions. Cauliflower roasted with shallots and garlic is wonderful. As a general rule, cut pieces to similar sizes, toss with olive oil, place in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep an eye on the browning; just the tips should get a bit of char. Should there be leftovers, add them to a quiche or tuck into a pita pocket with a little yogurt.
Deviled ChickenDrumsticks
Kid: “Hi, Mom. What’s for snack?”
You: “Grab a drumstick and glass of milk. How was school?”
Hot, lukewarm or cold, these juicy drums are terrific. Just coat with mustard, dredge in spicy seasoned crumbs and bake. Make these for supper and have extras for picnics or just eating out of hand.
For lots more 450-degree recipes and ideas, poke through your cookbooks. When you see a recipe with that number and very few ingredients, know that you are on the right track to a delicious and speedy dish.
Tips for roasting at high temperatures
• Set the rack in the center of the oven, unless the recipe indicates otherwise.
• Preheat the oven, giving it a good long time to get up to 450 degrees.
• Use the proper pan size recommended by the recipe to avoid spattering.
• Avoid using disposable pans — they can bend under the weight of heavier pieces of meat, causing a safety hazard.
• Every kitchen needs an instant-read thermometer. Got yours?
• Keep a clean oven. Dirty ovens smoke at high temperatures. If necessary, clean the oven after roasting.
• Never under-estimate the effect of carry-over time. Meats need to rest for at least 15 or 20 minutes so that the outer heat permeates the meat throughout and the juices redistribute themselves.
One-hour PerfectOven-Roasted Chicken
(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
1 Tbs. kosher salt (or rub
of your choice)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
31/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
1 Tbs. olive oil
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Place a 12-inch oven-safe skillet on rack in the cold oven. A cast-iron skillet is perfect. Now preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine salt, pepper and paprika (or rub) in bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and rub with oil. Sprinkle evenly all over with salt mixture and rub in to coat evenly. Tie the legs together with string and tuck wings tips behind back. Place the chicken on a plate.
At 450 degrees, the skillet will be blazing hot, so be careful. Using double potholders, remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer chicken, sliding it off the plate, breast side up, into preheated skillet. Place chicken in the skillet back into the oven. Roast 25 to 30 minutes depending on size.
Turn off oven and leave chicken 25 to 30 minutes longer or until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees. Do not open that oven door at any time during the cooking.
Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. While it rests, make a pan sauce or gravy if you like. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.
For pan sauce
The pan is still hot, so use an oven mitt. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Keep juices. Add a minced shallot and saute until softened. Add a little broth or pan juice and a bit of prepared mustard, scraping up the brown goodies from the bottom of the skillet. Swirl in a few tablespoons butter, a spritz of fresh lemon juice and any chopped fresh herb you have. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with the chicken.
For gravy
The pan is still hot, so use an oven mitt. Pour off juices into a measuring cup. They will separate into 2 layers, watery juices on the bottom, fat on the top. Measure 2 tablespoons fat and add back to the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons flour, mix well, turn on the heat to medium and allow the mixture to bubble for 2 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups of chicken broth with the reserved chicken juices and simmer until the thickness is what you like. Add salt and lots of pepper to taste. Want lots more gravy? Use this formula: 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons flour and 4 cups of broth.
— Cooks Illustrated
Sweet Potato Slices with Garlic
(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Is this side dish sweet or savory? The answer is both because the sweet potatoes concentrate their sugars while the garlic-oil adds a savory note. Garnish with fried sage leaves.
—Marlene Parrish
3 large garlic cloves
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
21/2 pounds sweet potatoes,
peeled and sliced into3/8-inch-thick rounds
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the upper third. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking tray.
Put the garlic through a press, then mince. In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, oil, salt and sweet potatoes.
Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking tray. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from the oven and flip the slices “pretty side up.” Serve with fried sage leaves scattered over top. Makes 4-6 servings.
For fried sage: Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then fry sage leaves (about 24 large leaves) in several batches, stirring until crisp, about 30 seconds to a minute per batch. Watch carefully. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
— “Gourmet Weekday” (Conde Nast, May 2012, $20)
Blonde Lasagna with Chicken, Cheese and Mushrooms
(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
If you strip the chicken, chop the skin, grate the cheeses and slice the mushrooms ahead, the dish goes together quickly. Use dry vermouth if you don’t want to open a bottle of white wine.
— Marlene Parrish
10 ounces mushrooms (white
or brown, wild or mixed),
thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
5 Tbs. unsalted butter,
separated
1/2 C. dry white wine
1/2 rotisserie chicken, meat
shredded to make 21/2 cups
Rotisserie pan juices
Chicken skin, chopped
(optional, but delicious)
31/2 C. whole milk
1/4 C. flour
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
3/4 C. grated Parmigiano-
Reggiano
12 no-boil egg lasagna
noodles, preferably Barilla
11/2 C. coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the middle. Spritz an 8- by 10-inch oblong baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. (A deep 9- by 9-inch pan can work, too.)
Cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chicken, juices and skin (if using). Set aside saucepan; you’ll use it again.
Bring milk to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Add hot milk in a fast stream, whisking constantly. Add the thyme, 3/4teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove from heat, and reserve 1 cup sauce. Stir Parmigiano-Reggiano into remaining sauce in pan, then stir into mushroom filling.
Spread half of reserved plain sauce in baking pan to coat bottom. Add 3 lasagna sheets, overlapping slightly, and 1/3 of mushroom filling, spreading evenly, then sprinkle 1/4 of Gruyere over top. Repeat sheets and filling 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 lasagna sheets and remaining plain sauce, spreading evenly. Sprinkle top with remaining Gruyere.
Spritz a long sheet of aluminum foil with baking spray oil. Cover the lasagna with the foil, tenting a bit to prevent foil from touching top of lasagna (it wants to stick) but sealing all around the edge, and bake 30 minutes.
Carefully remove foil and bake until cheese topping is golden, about 12 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
— “Gourmet Weekday” (Conde Nast, May 2012, $20)

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