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Roasting Chickens - One baked in clay, another baked in bread. Both smashed open. Delicious featured post *tasteologie

Roasting Chickens - One baked in clay, another baked in bread. Both smashed open. Delicious

October 11th, 2011

Williams-Sonoma just released a package of roasting clay.  It basically makes a custom one-time use clay oven.  I grew up in a house with both a kiln and a potter's wheel in the basement, so I was immediately intrigued.  The fact that you get to crack it open with a hammer didn't hurt either.  It's an interesting way to ensure a moist roast and add a little theatricality to dinner.

Here is the product as it appears on their website. This "classic preparation method" is so classic one might even want to refer to it as ancient.
For those of us who may be a little out of practice with their clay cooking techniques, they've created this video.
The roasting clay is unfortunately internet-only at this point and I couldn't bring myself to wait the few days for the delivery. So while waiting for UPS to come I ran out, found some clay, and got to work.
Parchment paper is your friend. It'll keep the chicken nice and clean in its raw clay environment. It will also help you roll out the slabs without the clay sticking to everything and driving you insane.
After a little crimping you are left with a soon to be delicious brick of chicken. If it helps you can think of it as a piñata.
One of the criticisms of these approaches is that it's hard to tell if it's done... you'll have to pay attention to the size of the bird and use a timer. Seeing as how you also get to bash it open... I think it's worth the trade off. I opted for a rolling pin rather than a dainty little mallet.
The results were an evenly cooked, moist, and juicy bird. Since you've just essentially steamed the bird in a little clay pot you do sacrifice having delicious golden brown skin. This is the price we pay for being able to smash things. Despite all the destruction, the cleanup was surprisingly easy... the parchment paper did its job.
This technique reminded me of baking in salt dough, so I prepared another chicken to do a little comparison. The salt dough is basically homemade play-dough without the oil that keeps it elastic and is another economical way to make your own dutch oven. Pouring in a cup of salt may feel a little absurd, but this crust ends up being discarded and the over abundance of salt helps season the bird inside.
Next was the salt dough, which I baked right alongside its clay cousin.
Peeling back the crust certainly didn't have quite the same visceral response as cracking open the clay. The chicken also cooked a little faster and less evenly, leaving it slightly overdone. So in comparison it appears that roasting in clay works as advertised and while this may not be an everyday way to roast a chicken it is fun for a special occasion. Imagine your guests' faces when dinner is served with a hammer!
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