June 29, 2010
The other day this idea popped into my head: I have yet to share with you a full meal picture. I post pictures of individual dishes and talk about them, or maybe even what I served with them, but not once have I documented the whole shebang. Never the plate of food that actually gets consumed. So here you go. It's not exactly my dinner plate, but this sums up a lot of dinners around here.
I find that salads are a good way to get the boy eat more veggies. It's not that D doesn't care for them, but given the choice, it's not the first thing he'll put on his plate and usually not at the top of his list of things to eat either. So I make a salad and throw veggies from the crisper on top. Okay, I kind of pile them on, but that's how we do around here. Also, since salads are mostly composed of staple items there is always guaranteed to be some veggies to go along with a meal. Even when I'm too lazy or forgetful to plan something. Oh! Behold those rich red beauties! Once again, these are from D's Mom's garden (Hi! Want to be an official blog sponsor?), finally tomatoes that taste like tomatoes and not some watery mealy lump. They were too good to throw into the salad, best enjoyed on their own, also my brother was around and he has some weird physical aversion to tomatoes. They may not be a year-round fixture but hell if I'm not going to eat them every opportunity I get this summer.
As for the roast chicken, it's probably the most frequent meat-based dish I make. Actually, it's one of only a handful of recipes that I RE-make. Most of the time, I make something, decide whether or not I like it and then move on. Not because it didn't warrant not making again, but more because there is this whole world of the internet and cookbooks and blogs out there with delicious looking food that I get distracted. That's where D comes in, he's the one who, when asked for dinner ideas, is always suggesting food I've already made. It's a nice balance. The success of this roast chicken is due to three factors. One) When there's only two people around to eat, and you roast a whole bird, it's nice that it's so adaptable for leftovers. Sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, cold and sprinkled lightly with salt, you don't have to eat the same leftover meal over and over. Two) I like the white meat, D likes the dark meat. Three) I get to make stock with the leftover carcass. And even if I don't feel like making it right away, I can always freeze the carcass and make the stock later. Voila! No more buying that sodium laden stuff from the store. It's a no fail recipe. The skin always gets nice and golden and crispy, the meat stays moist and the aromatics from the herbs and lemon and garlic will make you anxiously dance around your oven, waiting to eat.
This is how I make my roast chicken. Everytime. I took elements from several recipes (Zuni Cafe, Thomas Keller, Jamie Oliver) and pieced together the parts that worked best for me. I like my chicken simple, and the skin crispy. The salting in the morning helps keep the meat moist throughout the roasting, it's like a dry brine. The herbs under the skin lightly flavor the meat without overwhelming, as do the lemon and garlic stuffed in the cavity. Actually, the lemon and garlic serve double duty. After the chicken is roasted you can squeeze some of the lemon and smash the garlic into the pan juices to make an excellent sauce to either spoon over the chicken or swipe chunks of bread through. And for the ultimate icing on the frugal cake, I save the carcass after the skin and most meat has been pulled off and make stock.
4-1/2 pound whole chicken
several sprigs of thyme (or rosemary or sage)
1 lemon, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
In the morning, rinse and dry the chicken, discard all the bits inside (unless you have a better use, I don't). Be sure to dry it well, paper towels do this nicely. Salt the chicken generously inside and out and put back on a plate in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Just before baking, preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, rinse again, pat dry. Using your fingers separate the skin from the meat around the breasts and thighs and insert a few sprigs on thyme. In the cavity stuff another few sprigs of thyme, the quartered lemon and the garlic cloves. Again, salt the outside of the bird. Sometimes I lightly grind some fresh pepper over the top, sometimes I don't, do as you feel, it's good either way. Place breast side down in a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet, do not cover. Roast for an hour and a half. At this point, the skin should be a nice medium deep color and crispy, remove from oven and let rest in pan for 10 minutes.
Carve, cut, pull apart the chicken as you like