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!