Grilled Oysters with Spicy Tarragon Butter

serve

There’s a birthday in the house. A very special birthday. Our dog Bob is 2. We rescued him just about a year and a half ago. It was hard. He wasn’t very sure he wanted us and we weren’t sure we could handle all of the neurosis this rescue dog came with. We knew all about these difficulties when we decided to rescue him. He was born in Georgia. He and his siblings were immediately put into a shelter. They had to have been abused. He was adopted and returned (was this the abusive person?). He was then sent to another shelter – one of those horrific kill shelters. At 3 months he was rescued from that awful place, and then rescued from one rescue organization by the fabulous folks at Underhound Railroad. He spent 3 months under the care of Underhand Railroad living with a foster mom a few miles from here.

We talked about a dog. We talked about rescuing a dog. We scoured sites looking for the perfect dog. AND THERE HE WAS.

We met him. He wouldn’t look at us. He wouldn’t come near us. He hid behind his foster Mom (thank you, Jamie).

We glanced at each other across the lawn and knew. He needed a home. He needed love and support. He needed us. We wanted to be those people for him. We decided his name had to be Bob. Twofold – (1) Canned Heat from Woodstock – Woodstock Boogie “I’ve got a dog his name is Bob” and (2) the movie What About Bob – we say this an awful lot.

The first three days he spent under a table – shaking. Then we lost him, in the woods, for 3 days. Wet, scared puppy, rain, halter *poof* gone. When he came back we just weren’t sure anymore. Bob was just NOT happy with us. I talked the Dear One off the ledge. He talked me off the ledge. The folks at Underhound asked us to give it more than a week. So we did. Their support was incredible – phone, emails, texting.

Then Bob fell in love … with me. Not so much the Dear One at first, which was very difficult when WE wanted a dog and the dog didn’t want BOTH of us. Be patient, he will come around. Those words became our mantra.

We were patient. We were frustrated and sad. Our hearts were aching for this poor little dog who had to have been so badly treated that he had no faith in humans, even those who walked him and fed him and gave him treats – or our friends who fed him under the table when they thought we weren’t looking.

Suddenly, once day, without our realizing when or how it happened, OUR dog appeared. The one who jumps up and down when he hears my car. The one who wants only the Dear One to chase him around the yard. The one who knows if I say “time to brush your teeth” to come running to the kitchen. My secret service agent. The Dear One’s play mate. He is more of a puppy now than he was at 6 months old when he first entered our lives.

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Happy birthday, sweet dog. Thank you for letting us put a silly hat on your head. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you Dear One (as always) by indulging me with really wanting this insane dog. Perhaps this insane dog found the perfect insane home with two insane humans and all their insane friends.

So when Bob turned 2 and he was really and truly now OUR dog, he needed a special dinner. Enter the birthday dinner …

birthday-cake

A meatloaf cupcake, wrapped in bacon, mashed potato frosting and carrot candles. Maybe it was gone in 2 bites.

The grownups, however, didn’t want Bob’s birthday dinner surprise so we had Baked Oysters with a Spicy Tarragon Butter. This is a Bobby Flay recipe from Food & Wine.

We have a friend who grows oysters. When he calls and says he has oysters the only answer to be given is – OH.YES.PLEASE. We ate a bunch of them and had a bunch left over, but no shucking knife. Our dear friend said to just bake them in a hot oven and they’ll open right up.

These are so fresh, so sweet, so perfectly briney and grown just off the coast a few miles from our house.

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 dozen medium to large oysters, such as Gulf Coast or Bluepoint

NOTE: The oysters we used were farmed by a friend the day before. These are, without a doubt, the best oysters I have ever eaten.

Light a grill.

oysters

NOTE: It’s February – in Maine. The grill is away in the shed, shivering, waiting for spring to make an appearance. I turned the oven  up to 500 and baked the oysters for 10 minutes. The top shell lifted right off and we continued from there.

tarragon

In a food processor, pulse the butter with the tarragon, hot sauce, salt and pepper until blended. Transfer the tarragon butter to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it into a 2-inch-thick log. Refrigerate the butter until slightly firm, about 15 minutes. Slice the butter into 36 pats.

NOTE: I had 2 dozen oysters, but made the same amount of butter. There would have still been a lot left over with 36 oysters. I sliced the butter and froze it. There’s a salmon somewhere just itching for this butter!

baked

Place the oysters on the hot grill, flat-side up. Cover the grill and cook until the oysters open, about 5 minutes.

NOTE: A baking sheet and 500 degree oven for 10 minutes did the same thing.

with-butter

Using tongs, transfer the oysters to a platter, trying to keep the liquor inside. Quickly remove the top shells and loosen the oysters from the bottom shells. Top each oyster with a pat of tarragon butter and return the oysters to the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the butter is mostly melted and the oysters are hot, about 1 minute.

NOTE: Turned on the broiler and put the baking sheet back into the oven.

Serve right away.

Roasted Carrot Soup #SundaySupper

carrot-soup

It’s Sunday Supper time again. This week’s event – Fancy Appetizers – is being hosted by Wendy Wholistic Woman. Stop by and see her wonderful site!

I love having a garden. I love growing many different kinds of vegetables. I don’t like trying to figure out what to do with it all so it doesn’t spoil.

I can.

I freeze.

I cook and freeze.

I get stumped.

I flip through magazines.

And lookie what I found!

Roasted carrot soup with a tinge of ginger. This should work. The Dear One loves soup. Me? I’m not so crazy about soup. But this one is thick and rich. Unusual. Ginger. Besides, I get to try out my new immersion blender!

I’m very happy now that I’ve made this – it’s snowing and cold and snowing. Soup is perfect! And the orange color is so cheery!

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into medium dice (to yield about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 large rib celery, cut into medium dice (to yield about 1/2  cup)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger (from about 1/2-inch piece, peeled)
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives or chervil for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 375°F.

carrots-peeled

Place the carrots in a medium baking dish or on a baking sheet, you want the carrots in a single layer without touching. Drizzle carrots with the olive oil. Toss them to coat well and roast, for about one hour, stirring once halfway through roasting, until they’re tender, blistered, and lightly browned in a few places.

chopped-ingredients

Melt the butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s translucent and fragrant, 2 to 3 min. Stir in the celery and ginger and cook until the celery softens a bit and the onions start to brown, 4 to 5 min. Add the roasted carrots, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook at a lively simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 45 min. Turn off the heat and let the liquid cool.

Purée the soup in a blender in batches, never filling the blender more than a third full, and bearing down firmly on the towel-covered lid so the soup doesn’t come flying out. An immersion blender is perfect for this! If serving immediately, return the soup to the pot and reheat; garnish with the chives or chervil if you like. Otherwise, refrigerate for up to five days; reheat gently and taste for salt before serving.

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Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Grilled Swordfish with Husk Cherry Salsa #SundaySupper

done

It’s been a long time, but know that I feel the urge to blog again, I’ve rejoined the fab people over at Sunday Supper. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a great bunch of food folk who post recipes from a specific theme each Sunday. There’s information at the bottom of this post on how to join. I’m going to do my best to keep up! This week’s #SundaySupper Tastemaker event is being hosted by Candace from Authentically Candace. Thanks for the hosting!

A friend of mine with a garden that is fair size bigger than ours and with some ingredients that are ‘experimental’ for my limited gardening knowledge, lets me come over and explore. While she and I were walking around her garden one day, I came across these Husk Cherries. They’re also called Choke Cherries or ground cherries.

husk-cherry

As you can see, they’re covered in paper, much the way a tomatillo is. They’re about the size and color of  a Sun Gold tomato, maybe a little smaller in size. Inside, they’re structurally akin to a tomato.

picked

peeledThey’re sweet. They’re tart. They’re like candy. They’re fabulous. Definitely going in my garden this year.

But now that I have them, what am I going to do – aside from admiring them!

They’re a pain to peel because they’re so small. They’re sticky.

But once peeled and rinsed, you just want to do something fabulous with them. I searched and searched until I came across a recipe from Michael Simon, who I am liking more and more every day.

 

FOR THE HUSK CHERRY SALSA

  • 1 pound ground cherries (husked, washed, and sliced in half, about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup thinly shaved red onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. For better flavor, let sit for 1 hour before serving.

made

FOR THE SWORDFISH:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (5 to 6-ounces each) swordfish steaks

Prepare the grill (medium-high heat). Whisk the oil, mint, lemon juice, basil, and garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Season the lemon and olive oil mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Brush the swordfish steaks with 2 tablespoons of the lemon and olive oil mixture. Grill the steaks until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (depending on thickness of steaks). Transfer the steaks to plates.

Add the Husk Cherry Salsa to the top of each Swordfish steak and you’re done!

Take a moment to visit the other great Easy Dinner Recipes for Two!

Chicken Recipes

Pasta Recipes

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Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

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So, there’s this girl I know. Well, not a girl, a young lady really. But when I was her age … and yes, I was her age once, I wasn’t born THIS OLD, ya know … being called a young lady made be visibly blanch. She’s becoming very dear to me. In my family, cooking for and feeding people is a way to show (some) love.

There’s a little glitch in showing this Italian, kitchen-esque type of love to this otherwise lovely girl. She’s a vegetarian. Nothing with a face. Nothing with a soul. Hmmm … tricky. Never gave much thought to strictly vegetarian dishes, and fortunately, she’s not vegan, but tricky going for me just the same.

Oh! We need to add another level of cooking angst here … her sister is NOT a vegetarian (but that’s a whole ‘nuther magilla which we will get to in recipes and days to come) and, of course, there’s the carnivore. How do you feed all these different needs with one dish and keeping your hair on your head and not clenched between your fingers having just been torn from your head?

Must be yummy. Must have no faces or soul. Must be hearty. I can do this. I know I can.

I came across this Giada de Laurentiis recipe from Everyday Italian for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. The original recipe calls for prosciutto (oh, you don’t know what you’re missing) and a bechamel sauce. I opted to leave out the prosciutto and swap the bechamel for tomato sauce. Salad. Garlic bread. Dinner is ready.

And while it has no faces, this dish certainly has soul!

  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
  • 1 C plus 2 T grated Parmesan
  • 1 C shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 t salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 C marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and add a tablespoon of oil.

NOTE: I normally don’t add oil when I’m cooking pasta, but with the lasagna noodles it seems to help keep them from sticking together and becoming a massive clump.

Cook the pasta until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter or spray with cook spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour about 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish and spread to cover. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll.

Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, on top of the marinara sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: You can gild the lily a bit here and add a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the marinara. If you choose to do this, after 20 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

 

 

Peach Liqueur

peach-liqueur

As you learned from the Pear Liqueur post just a few days ago, the Dear one and I were married in October. It only took us 45 years to get there, but the important thing is we got there.

Yes, 45 years. We met in grammar school in the mid-1970s. Not a lot of spark, but we weren’t even teenagers then. Went to separate high schools, but ended up in the same high school. I remember the first day being in a new school and seeing him standing at the top of the stairs. My heart exploded and I was in love. We dated, didn’t, dated, didn’t, dated,he went to Antarctica for the first time and we lost touch. There was always a space there for the ONE who got away. Sigh …

We went to a teeny, tiny Catholic grammar school in Greenwich Village. The Sisters of (un)Charity, the order of nuns that ran our grammar school, which had closed right after graduation, allowed us to use the building for a reunion. This was to be – and was – a reunion of epic proportions. Alumni were invited from the very first class of students through to the last graduating class.

I was somehow (thank you, Sandra!) was dragged into planning and coordinating this event, though someone, whose name I will not mention, hogged all the credit – well, he shared it with someone who didn’t do a single thing. Part of what the Sisters sent us to use for the reunion were CDs filled with photos; some candids, some class photos.

As one does, I sat in front of the computer looking for photos of me, my sister, my friends. While scanning through the class photos, laughing the whole time at the outfits and hair – WAIT! There HE is wearing groovy Davy Jones-esque stripped pants, a hair cut from I don’t know where and a goofy smile only a tween-aged boy can have. My heart did a pitter-patter.

To make a very long story short, I emailed him. Three sentences and the photo. I wasn’t looking for anything, just to share a photo, check in.

He didn’t answer.

And he didn’t answer.

But then HE DID.

And here we are … finally. I feel as though all the pieces finally fit together, not a feeling ever experienced before in my life.

Perhaps it’s a bit like that old sermon about the fellow who gets to heaven questioning why God didn’t save him. God’s reply, I sent you a log, a boat and a helicopter …

This was more like I put you two in each other’s paths in grammar school, high school and now. Well, this time I got the message LOUD AND CLEAR and I grabbed on and won’t ever let go.

peaches

But we’re here for peaches!

Lovely, sweet peaches. Look, there are a few in the trees! Wait, here’s more. O.M.G. look at all of these peaches! Now what will I do!?

I’ll tell you what I will do – I will make peach liqueur (look at how well the pear experiment worked!), and peach salsa, and peach jam, and freeze some just sliced, and eat many, oh, wait Sangria. Peaches were easier. The very nice thing about this recipe is the no fuss, no muss, no cooking side to it.

  • 3 peaches (about 10 ounces)
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 500 ml vodka

NOTE: Again, do to the number of peaches I had I quadrupled this recipe.

Rinse the peaches well and pat them dry.

lemons

Remove the peel from the lemon and cut into thick slices.

ready-to-sit

Place all the ingredients in an air tight jar and leave to infuse for 6 – 8 weeks, shaking every few days to dissolve the sugar.

2-weeks

NOTE: After about two weeks the liquid turns a lovely pink color.

After 6 – 8 weeks, strain the liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filter lined sieve. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

 

Pear Liqueur

pear-liquor

I’ve just returned to Maine after having spent Christmas and New Year’s in New York with  my family and friends. The Dear One – whose name I may now change to Dear Husband, we were married in October – was away in Antarctica working. It was wonderful being able to spend so much time with my family and friends, and also wonderful to return home to Maine. At times it feels as though I don’t feel quite settled in either place.

One of the questions I am constantly asked is “Do you miss New York?”

This is a question I have asked myself many, many times. I have no solid answer. I have more of a pro and con list for both New York City and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor is a car culture. I find myself at work going through my cabinets and fridge and freezer to figure out what I need at home. Once home, it’s 6 miles to the nearest store. In NYC, you can find anything you need or want at any time of the day or night – and within walking distance. I walked  more in NYC over my three week visit than I have in Bar Harbor in three months.

New York City wins HANDS DOWN restaurants, supermarkets, ability to find unusual ingredients – well, anything a foodie may need or desire. Bar Harbor is a barren foodie land. There are very few restaurants open here during the off season and those pickings are slim and not necessarily diverse. As for ingredients? OH PUH-LEASE! Thank goodness for Amazon!

Bar Harbor is beautiful and quiet. We hear no sirens or honking of horns. As you drive down roads there is one beautiful view after another. Breathtaking at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are views in NYC that are unforgettable, but they’re only enjoyed with the 300 or 400 people swarming around you.

The sidewalks are not as crowded in Bar Harbor. Not crowded from October to May and increasingly crowded May to October with tourists. But, no one is walking down the street with their heads down staring at an illuminated screen missing the world going on around them. Or a phone in one hand and a cup of Starbucks in the other behaving as though no one else is walking down the street.

People here say please and thank you regularly. I’m greeted by name in the bank and post office and supermarket. There’s a friendly spirit amongst the residents of this bucolic town.

I would say that the major disadvantage between NYC and BH is my family and friends. They’re all in NYC. I miss my family and friends desperately. That sense of community, of belonging, of loyalty, being a member of and a part of a family – whomever that is made up by – has not yet been found here. We all have those people – friends and family that call when you’re alone or not feeling well, that like to spend time together, gravitate toward each other; the phone that rings at just the perfect moment when you’re wandering around a big house all alone with a voice inviting you to dinner or a movie or a walk or just a chat. People who are truly intertwined in each other’s lives with more than just ‘saying’ they are. Perhaps it’s being the new person, or not being ‘from’ here. Quite frankly, I have met a small handful of people who actually are ‘from’ here. Everyone was new at one time or another.

Boy, oh, boy do I miss that. I’m not sure how to find that here or if it even exists. I’m still looking. I’m open to it actually happening, but after 3 years, I’m not sure if it will happen.

Wish me luck! Fingers crossed.

pear

After reading all of that, we’re finally at the foodie portion of this blog post.

One of the best things about living in Bar Harbor are our lovely gardens. Flowers and herbs and veggies and fruit trees. We have cherry trees and apple and peach and pears. Some years there are bumper crops of each and some years not a one. We were blessed with a bumper crop of pears.

The first time the trees had pears! We have three. Two were here when I  moved in and one we planted. The two that were here were very strange. They were alive, they had leaves, but never a flower. Early the first spring I spoke to them and mentioned that if they didn’t flower, they would be cut down and replaced. One tree flowered, one didn’t. The next spring, I spoke to the unflowering one and nicely asked it to catch up to the other and at least flower – or else. We planted the third tree. That spring two flowered, but not the new tree. The third spring, I was very adamant about them ALL flowering and having at least ONE pear EACH! And KA-BOOOOOOOM!

Pears! Our pears had pears! The question is, what do you do with PEARS? Bushels of pears. They don’t have a long shelf life. You cannot do a lot with them. I made pear butter, pear sorbet, many blue cheese, walnut and pear tarts … now what?

Pear liqueur here we come! It’s easy to put together. Most of the time preparing this comes during the waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be finished. But the jar is sitting in the dark just getting ready to bring you great joy.

The liqueur is sweet and fragrant, warmly infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, just a hint of citrus from the orange peel. We served this ice cold from the freezer in small glasses – you really cannot drink a lot of this (well, one person drank an entire jar – the last jar!)

I used a good, inexpensive vodka. Please don’t spend oodles of money on a top shelf vodka. The vodka here is really just a vehicle for the pears and spices.

If you have an abundance of pears or can get your hands on some beautiful, fresh pears, give this a whirl. I’ve also done the same with peaches and made a peach liqueur, so keep an eye out!

pears

1 large pear
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 nutmeg broken into small pieces
2 strips of dried orange peel
6 cloves
500ml vodka
150g (5 oz) caster sugar

NOTE: I quadrupled this recipe.

Make sure you have a ripe yet unblemished pear. Rinse and pat dry.

Pierce the pear all over with a fine skewer Place the pear in a sterilized glass jar that it fits quite snugly in. Make sure it’s large enough to hold the 500ml vodka. Add the spices and orange peel.

NOTE: To make the dried orange peel, use a potato peeler to peel strips of skin off an orange, making sure you just take the skin and not the bitter white pith. Leave this on a radiator or in an airing cupboard overnight, or warm in a very low oven till completely dried. I used the oven method for quickness. This intensifies the wonderful orange flavor.

adding-vodka

Fill the jar with vodka and close the lid.

ready-to-age

Set on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks open the jar and add the sugar. Shake well and set aside in a cool dark cupboard for a further 6 weeks. Shake every day or so that the sugar to completely dissolves.

After 6 weeks, remove pear and spices from the jar and strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Do this part twice to get a really clear liqueur.

NOTE: I used a sieve with a coffee filter set inside.

Decant the liquid into a sterilized bottle and enjoy! It’s best served ice cold, so keep the jar in your fridge or freezer.

Perfect Roast Chicken

DSC_1069

This is so much less about roasted chicken than it is about chicken in general.

Really, once you’ve roasted one or two chickens, you have the basics down pat and there isn’t much to change aside from herbs and citrus and, perhaps, what you roast around it.

My fall back recipe – as I cannot for the life of me keep oven temperatures or timing in my head – is an oldie but a goodie, from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. I admit. I’m boring. I stuff a head of garlic that I cut in half horizontally, a lemon that I cut in half, and whatever fresh herbs I have around inside the chicken. I liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and Bob’s your uncle. Potatoes, carrots and onions around the chicken. Completely fix it and forget it.

As most of you know, I am now living in DownEast Maine – and why is it called downeast Maine? Well, I’ll tell ya! Coastal schooners laden with goods for Portland and other Maine ports would leave Boston, Massachusetts keeping their compass headings generally east or northeast, hoping that the prevailing wind from the westerly quadrants would stay behind them. Hence, they sailed downwind in an easterly direction. Hence, they were traveling down east. Things are very different here.

And you must be wondering why, if I don’t really use a roasted chicken recipe am I prattling on about roasted chickens and living on an island off the coast of Maine.

El Dia de la Pollo Muerto … the day of the dead chickens.

A some of our friends once a year purchase chicks. They’re so very cute when they’re little. We would go over and look at them, watch them grow. I would wonder why, unlike the laying birds that are free range, these chicks were penned. Seems you can have either laying chickens or eating chickens.  They raise a bunch of eating chickens. Once they’ve been tended to and loved and fattened up … well, el dia de la pollo muerto.

HORRIFYING! I know! Growing up in the big city, while you try to be conscientious about how animals are being raised and what they’re being fed, you don’t necessarily give much though to the in between raising and purchasing/eating.

Around November, the Dear One and some of our friends get together and – to quote the Queens of Hearts – off with their heads.

I have been invited to attend this gala event. I have politely declined, trying not to make the squelched up face I’m making as I type. ‘They’ say it’s quick and painless (let’s ask the chicken that!) and rather quick to go from live chicken to ready to eat. I don’t know the actual process, but there are beheadings, and contraptions that look like dryers that do the defeathering, and the descriptions just get worse from there.

My last conversation with our friend MG went something like this –

MG: You should come. It’s great. Fascinating to watch.
ME: Are you kidding? No way, no how, no time.
MG: Oh, it’s not so bad. Quick.
ME: Well, what time do you start? But DON’T count on it. And I’m not helping
MG: ME? No, no, no, no. I don’t go. I can’t bear it.

Seriously, Dude?

So I stay home. Thinking good thoughts for the poor little chickens giving so much of themselves for my roasting pan, and convince myself that the chickens going to my freezer are all from the grocery store. You see, the one request with these 8-10 incredible chickens that come into the house … no feet, no heads, no feathers, no guts, and please put them in plastic bags so I can pretend there was just a fantastic sale on chickens.

I do wonder if the laying hens feel guilty. There they are, well fed, out all day playing in the sun with the turkeys and guinea fowl, goats (meanest little creatures ever born), and the pig, Kevin. Why are they safe? Are they to be next? One will never know the mind of a chicken.

That being said, these are probably the best chickens I have even eaten. Cooked here only for those deserving, chosen few.

This past go round, I was honored with a big bag of chicken livers and skin … pate and cracklings … more no that later.

  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil

NOTE: I skip the melted butter, use whatever fresh herbs I have around, and substitute potatoes for the fennel.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.