Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Cry Fowl!

Our Kitchen in Italy

My Mom eats chicken, but she doesn’t particularly like it. To me, this is curious. A bizarre quirk of her palate. A strangeness worth noting and perhaps even questioning. When she says, “I’m just not that crazy about chicken,” I always want to argue the point. As if our tastes can be influenced by reason.

I, on the other hand, adore chicken. In fact, I imagine future posts devoted to my personal history with fried chicken, my passion for chicken wings, and how I’ve spent whole days laboring to duplicate the legendary ‘chicken and dumplings’ of DH’s MaMa.

But the chicken on the specials' board today is Roast Chicken. I love me some roast bird.

When in Tuscany (are you noticing a motif here?), we ate most of our meals in restaurants, or picked up ingredients for a quick pasta dish, but we also felt compelled to shop at the butcher’s. On one occasion this translated into bacon for breakfast. But on another afternoon, my friend K and I decided it was time to do some real cooking in our Tuscan kitchen. With children under foot, the smartest bet was a meal that cooked itself. So we bought a big bird from the butcher. (Don't worry kiddies, it wasn't the big bird). All ready to cook . . . except with feet and head attached. Once we’d amused (grossed-out?) the kids a bit with these bits and pieces, I prepared the chicken for roasting.

The real adventure was using an oven that had no temperature gauge—the numbers had rubbed off over the years. I took a wild guess and crossed my fingers. After about fifteen minutes, we could hear the skin crackling. I checked inside, and the bird was already a deep golden brown. I took another wild guess and turned the knob about 45 degrees the other direction. Then we cooked it another 75 minutes. Somehow the Tuscan genii of the kitchen's culinary past had intervened, and the bird turned out beautifully. That first fifteen minutes had magically sealed in the juices, making the meat moist and tasty.

When at home, I follow a slightly different routine (more exact in heat and time), but the results are similar. If you can, get a free-range, organic bird. You will taste the difference.

Simple Roast Chicken

3-4 pound Free-Range chicken

Salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme

1 lemon

1 large yellow onion

3-4 carrots (or a couple handfuls of baby carrots)

10-12 small red potatoes

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Season 3-4 pound bird with coarse salt and ground pepper. Let it rest in refrigerator until ready to roast.

*Take two to three cloves of garlic, sliced, and rub over the chicken skin. Place the cloves under the skin and in the cavity.

*Halve a lemon and squeeze the juice over the chicken and put the lemon halves in the chicken cavity.

*Cover the chicken with fresh thyme and rosemary. Place the rest in the cavity.

*Cover the chicken with foil and cook for 50 minutes

*Slice the carrots into quarter size pieces (or use baby carrots)

*Slice the onion into one inch pieces.

* Halve, or even quarter the potatoes (get them into bit size pieces).

*Combine the carrots, potatoes, onions with some rosemary and thyme, and two tablespoons of olive oil, until coated.

Once the timer rings, remove foil from chicken, add the vegetables to the pan and roast without foil for another 50 minutes. Turn the vegetables with a spatula once or twice in that time.

Raise the temperature to 425 degrees, and let the chicken and veggies get some color for about 15 minutes.

Here’s DH’s plate from dinner:

We’re not food photographers (yet!), but trust me . . . the chicken was excellent.

It made me think that if my mom were here, she’d just have to change her mind about poultry.


Mary Louisa said...

This is pretty much how I roasted my last chicken. Except all I had was a lime to halve. I threw a whole head of garlic in the cavity, too, halved horizontally, and some fresh thyme sprigs. And the veg around the sides of the roasting pan. YES! YUM!

ncfoodie said...

I used to make a Chicken and Garlic recipe that took a whole head, but they had to be peeled. Took forever!! Half a head, unpeeled, in the cavity sounds good and easy. Then you can squeeze out the mellowed squishy stuff on bread.