Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My first roast chicken in over 30 years

Of course I have eaten roast chicken in the past three decades. The interesting thing is that I think that the last time that I made a whole roast chicken may have been in Carter administration, shortly after Marcella Hazan's second Italian cookbook came out, with the recipe for chicken stuffed with two lemons. I was underwhelmed, and besides, who could fit two lemons in a 2 1/2 pound bird? I have made plenty of baked, boiled, braised, steamed, and pan roasted chicken in my day, but it was almost always cut up or at least flattened. I would occasionally braise a whole bird for a Moroccan meal, especially because it looked so impressive after being glazed in the oven and was served sitting on top of a bed of couscous. Although a whole roast chicken is THE classic Shabbat dinner, we never made it. Roast chicken was someone else's job, especially my mother-in-law's (zichrona livracha), or the takeout market's.

Anyway, I had a large bunch of fresh thyme from our CSA from last week, and over the weekend was browsing through an Alice Waters cookbook with a simple roast chicken recipe. So, I more or less followed her directions, modified with some touches from my mother-in-law:

  1. In the morning, take a nice chicken, about 3 pounds, remove any loose fat (and the bag of organs if there is one -- some newbies forget about this) and put fresh thyme leaves and sliced garlic under the skin. Stuff the rest of the bunch of thyme and some more garlic cloves in the cavity, wrap it in wax paper, and let it sit for the day in the refrigerator.

  2. Take it out of the fridge about 2 hours before you want to cook it. I called my daughter (the one who insisted that I start this blog) in the late afternoon to tell her to do this.

  3. Put some sliced carrot, onion and celery (my mother-in-law's contribution) in a baking dish that isn't too big, and should just hold the bird. Salt it well with coarse salt,

  4. Bake breast side up for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Turn breast side down for 20 minutes more, and then breast side up for the final 10-20 minutes. The juices should be clear and the leg should move easily.

  5. Broil a few minutes if the skin needs to brown more.

  6. Cover lightly with foil and let sit about 10 minutes.

  7. Cut the chicken up in the roasting pan (there will be lots of juice) with poultry shears and serve.

This goes nicely with a tossed salad with vinaigrette -- spoon some of the chicken juices over the salad for a real treat.

This is not only a dish for the temporarily unemployed. You can do the preliminary prep in 10-15 minutes in the morning, or the night before. The main difficulty is that it really cooks better if it is close to room temperature when you put it in the oven. If no one is at home to call to take the chicken out of the fridge, you can call a neighbor or your super. You can leave it out for an hour instead of two if necessary, and just roast it a little longer. It really beats take-out, and my wife was very happy. I promised her I won't wait 30 years before doing it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment