Perfect Roast Chicken

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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.

Cloverleaf Rolls

Done

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Ever wake up in the morning and just NEED to bake something? Just.must.have.hands.in.dough. This was me … May have been being home alone on New Year’s Ever, or those I love being so far away, or wanting to take my angst out by beating oops, kneading dough a bit. Whatever it was, these Cloverleaf Rolls from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book did just the trick. Careful not to overwork the dough or they will be a bit tough.

  • 1 C milk
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t instant yeast
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2 3/4 C (14 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, well beaten (for egg wash)

Melt butter

Combine the milk, butter and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over low just until the butter melts. Set aside and cool to 105-115 F.

Yeast Salt

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, salt and flour. Mix briefly to combine. Once the milk mixture cools sufficiently, turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the liquid down the side of the mixing bowl and beat until a rough dough forms. Continue to knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky you can add a little bit of flour, and if it seems dry (like mine did) add a bit more milk.

Ready to Rise

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Add the dough, turning to coat, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Ready to roll

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal portions. Divide each of those portions into thirds. Roll each of the 3 pieces into small balls (they don’t have to be perfect) and place them in one of the wells of the muffin pan in a triangle shape. Repeat with the other portions of dough. Cover the muffin pan with a kitchen towel and let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Ready to Bake

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the rolls are puffed and golden and the sides are crisp. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and remove the rolls from the pan immediately. The rolls are best when served warm, but if you make them ahead of time you can re-warm them before you serve – wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and pop in a 350 F oven for about 15 minutes.

NOTE: I sprinkled the tops with caraway seeds and sea salt before baking.

And we have a winner …

I would have made this announcement sooner but …

*%&#^@%!!&#^%%^ Switching from a PC to a Mac is really not that easy when Fred Flintstone was your prom date!

I cannot resize photos. I cannot do anything. So now I email from my Mac ro my PC, use my old software, then email it back and then post.

CAN YOU #^$%@%! IMAGINE!?!

Anywho! The winner of the American Express Dinner@6 $100 gift card was Maria Dombrowski,

Thank you to everyone who participated! I was truly humbled and overwhelmed at the number of responses!

The Seven Links

There is a game going around the Blogging world called Seven Links.  Basically there are 7 questions, that you answer using previous posts of yours. My dear friend Lizzy over at That Skinny Chick Can Bake tagged me, so here I go (grumble, grumble, grumble)! 
 
Before I start, I must say I was really not sure I was happy about this tag. But in retrospect, it’s been very cathartic. It let’s me see how my blog has progressed, how may new people I have met, where I want to improve, etc.
 
So, we’ll have to change that grumble, to a thanks, LIZZY!
 
1.  Most Beautiful Post: I would say from a culinary standpoint, the Frico Cups I made for the Daring Bakers Edible Containers was the most beautiful.
  
2.  Most Popular Post: Surprising to me the Flour Tortillas was the second most popular post.  The first was the Homemade Vanilla that you’ll see in No. 5.
 
3.  Most Controversial Post:  I am fortunate enough to say I don’t have one!
              
4. The Most Helpful Post: Wooden Spoon Butter – wonderful treatment for all your wooden kitchen toys as well as cutting board. This actually could have gone under No. 7 as well – not getting the attention it deserved. This stuff is an absolute necessity if you’re mean to your wooden kitchen gadgets!
 
5.  Post that was surprisingly successful:   Homemade Vanilla – how surprised was I that this has had the most hits. It doesn’t hurt that FoodBuzz picked this as one of its flavors of the month postings!

6.  Post that did not get the attention it deserved: My Mom’s Italian Bread – I thought it was great and the photos were terrific, but it didn’t seem to get much attention! So hard to tell what will ever get attention, isn’t it?

7.  Post you are most proud of: To me, my Grandma Rosie’s Ravioli  is my most beautiful post, but that is purely from a content perspective. I have wanted to try this recipe of my Great Grandmother’s for a long time. It’s Tommy’s favorite, and it as his 21st birthday.

       
There are 2 rules.  1 link per category.  And to tag 5 other bloggers.  Here are my 5:
 
JamieAnne – A Dash of Domestic
Danielle – Hugs & Cookies
 
And from a purely honorary standpoint (mis you, love you, always) –

Pavlova with Strawberries and Raspberries

I think sometimes I get so caught up in life and work and cooking and laundry and cook-alongs I want to keep up with (very unsuccessfully, I might add) and every day cooking and blogging and, of course, my silly dog, that photos of recipes I tried get lost in the shuffle.

Such was the case with my son Tommy’s birthday cake. Yes, I know, I know, his birthday was in March and it is now July. And I know I did a spectacular post for his birthday dinner of Grandma Rosie’s Ravioli – and one would think that would have been enough cooking for one day but nooooooooooo – he wanted a pavlova for dessert.

Not being one tp deny my darling son any culinary request, I turned to the Domestic Goddess herself for help. Nigella Lawson’s pavlova recipes are terrific – though they really are basically all the same with a different fruit or adding some cocoa powder to make a chocolate pav. This particular version is adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess‘ Christmas Pavlova.

Not that I am trying to diminish the wonderfulness of MOI, but this recipe is so simple it isn’t even funny! It looks so spectacular and elegant no one would guess the simplicity in the process.

  • 8 large egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 500 g (17.5 oz) superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 500 mL (2 cups) whipping or double cream
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

NOTE: The eggs should be at room temperature. This step makes all the difference in the world. Leave them out for a few hours before separating the eggs. Use the egg yolks for a creme brulee or a pudding.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw an 8-inch (20 cm) circle on the paper with a kitchen pencil. Turn the paper over so the pencil markings will not be against your pavlova.

NOTE: You really can just do this free form. Those of you who know me already know I am a bit kooky about things like this. If you tell me in a recipe I should do it, then gosh darn it I am going to do it – at least the first time!

Beat the egg whites and salt with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or an electric beater until thick soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar, a scattered spoonful or two at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cornstarch, vinegar and rosewater, and gently fold into the meringue.

Pour the meringue into the middle of the circle . Using a spatula, roughly flatten the top and smooth the sides.

Place in the preheated oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 300°. Bake for 1 3/4 hours, during which time the meringue will puff up. Turn off the heat, open the door and leave to cool sitting in the oven — it should be left to cool in the oven until shortly before serving, or alternately it can be cooked ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for a week or so.

While the pavlova is cooking, wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Sprinkle a little sugar over the berries. Wash the raspberries and set 1/2 aside. The other half add to a small pot, over a low flame until they breakdown and release their juice and begins to thicken.

NOTE: I strained this. I don’t like seeds. If the seeds don’t bother you, skip this step.

Whip the whipping  cream until thick and airy but not stiff. Once completely cooled, remove the meringue from the oven, gently move to a large flat-bottomed serving plate, removing the parchment paper. Make sure the flat side is on the serving plate. Pile on the whipped cream. Neatness does not count here.  It’s messy appearance is part of its charm.

Scatter the strawberries and raspberries over the whipped cream.  Drizzle some of the raspberry syrup over the berries. Dive in!

I love the berries with the squishy marshmallow of the pavlova. I could probably just eat the entire pavlova alone. Meringue has always been one of my favorite things. Enjoy!

Wooden Spoon Butter

I love wooden utensils. I have a collection that I have bought all over the world, been given as gifts from friends and one from my Grandmother’s kitchen. Each time I use them I am reminded of the place I bought it or the person that gave it to me or my darling Grandmother.

But, I am a beast. Truly, I am. Just ask my precious collection of wooden spoons, wooden forks, wooden spatulas, wooden cutting boards. I am sure I have caught them trying to escape.

I use them constantly. I leave them sitting in pots of liquid. I leave them sitting in the sink getting all kinds of ick poured on them. I leave them sitting across hot pots and pans. They get poured on, steamed, stirred, scorched and burned regularly.

And you may want to avert your eyes here, I have even put them in the dishwasher.

Recently I have become the proud owner of a couple of beautiful wooden utensils from Kitchen Carvers (can you say spurtle?) and one from Thibeault’s Table (thank you Linda) – these have never been in the dishwasher, but, still, they do take a beating.

While reading a post over at Food in Jars, I came across a recipe for spoon butter. Thinking this would be something yummy to put on toast, I kept reading and then became enthralled with a recipe for a wood conditioning ‘butter’ for my poor, abused and neglected wooden treasures. Marisa had found the recipe over at 3191 Miles Apart.

I am telling you, this is ingenious.

This was something that had to be done, if for no other reason than to help my wooden implements know that they truly are loved.

To start, you need 1/4 pound of beeswax, 16 oz of mineral oil and a quart sized jar.

There is some debate over using mineral oil for this process. They do make a mineral oil in a food grade so you might want to hunt that down, or try Amazon, they have it. I bought the mineral oil at IKEA (I can hear my friend Rick gasping). Jojoba oil works too. My health food store carried the beeswax.

Off we go to resuscitate my spoons.

Place a quart-sized jar in a small saucepan and fill it about a third of the way up with water. Put the beeswax in the jar and bring it to a good simmer.

As it is melting, drizzle in the contents of a 16 ounce bottle of mineral oil. They should emulsify on their own, use a wooden implement to stir it together if it needs a bit of help.

Take your jar out of the water bath, allow to cool and it’s ready to use. It will be a thick consistency.

To treat the wood, you may want to sand surfaces that are stained or nubbly with fine grit sandpaper.  Then – and this is the icky part for me – dip your hand into the spoon oil and rub into the wood.

Allow the wood to sit and absorb the oil for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, then buff dry with a clean cloth. That’s it!

I did the same for my cutting boards and wooden rolling pins! And after all this, my hands felt great too!

Happy Easter!

My friend Lizzy over at That Skinny Chick Can Bake invited me to play an Easter tag game … which originated in Hungary. The object is to select past recipes from my blog to make my Easter (or holiday) dinner. It really was difficult picking! Here we go ~

For nibbles while the cookis funishing up ~

Toasted Cecchi, Almonds & Pistachios

To start ~

Lemon Risotto

Followed by way too mcuh food ~

Flat Roasted Chicken

Scalloped Tomatoes

Smashed Potatoes (post to come)

Always followed by something sweet ~

Rustic Cherry Tart

And something chocolate ~

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

Here are the rules:

Each blogger tagged is invited to post 5-10 Easter (or any other festivity if you don’t celebrate Easter) menu suggestions from previous blog posts … with photos and links back to the recipes.  Include appetizers, entrees, drinks, desserts … whatever you’d like.

Then invite up to 10 more bloggers to do the same…sharing links to their blogs.

Here are the bloggers I have tagged (no pressure…I know some of you have already done an Easter post):

Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Yummy Chunklet from Yummy Chunklet
Geni from Sweet and Crumby
Linda from How to Cook a Wolf 
Adriana from Great Food 360
Nuts ABout Food from Nuts About Food
Heavenly Housewife from Donuts to Delirium
Becky from Random Musings of a Deco Lady

Have a wonderful Easter and holiday weekend!