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.

Pork Chops Agrodolce

Pork Chops Agrodolce

I have seen this recipe many times – on the Williams-Somoma website, Giada de Laurentiis, Mario Batali – and all had a certain appeal. That wonderful combination of sweet and sour. And that sweet and sour comes from two of my favorite ingredients – balsamic vinegar and honey! What could be better? Oh, one thing – it’s so quick to make! It’s one of those meals you can do last minute if on a work night you decide to torture yourself and invite a friend around for dinner!

Ingredients

Best part, it’s just a few ingredients, and pantry ingredients really. Couple this with potatoes or couscous and a salad and you are DONE!

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, each about 1 lb. and 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/2 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 2 T unsalted butter

Seasoning Pork

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Cooking Pork

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the honey, vinegar and thyme and cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer.

NOTE: The balsamic vinegar gets very dark, very quickly, and will go from dark to burned even quicker, so be careful!

Basting

Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning the chops occasionally and basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes more for medium doneness. Transfer the chops to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Sausage with Fagioli all’Uccelletta

If I had to pick one cuisine to live on for the rest of my life – after I finished mourning the loss of all the wonderful cuisines there are – I would have to pick Tuscan. There is something about the complex simplicity. The range of ingredients. The types of ingredients. How they all dance together. And besides, that style of cooking reminds me of my Grandmother – Glamour Girl.

I was thrilled to pieces when the Cooking Channel added Extra Virgin to their line up. I have always loved Debi Mazar. But now I love Debi Mazar and her wonderful husband Gabriele Corcos. Their banter is hilarious. Their food is sublime. You can watch Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel and follow along their cooking adventures on the blog Under the Tuscan Gun.

On one of the recent episodes, Debi and Gabriele made Sausage with Fagioli all’Uccelletta. I wanted to grab my plate and fork and sit next to them to eat. I went out the next morning to buy the ingredients I needed.

By the way, if you haven’t watched their show, watch. They are so wonderful together – funny, charming, great banter.

This dish is easy enough for the summer heat and hearty and comforting enough for the winter. I have a feeling it will be on our table all the time.

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 Italian turkey sausages
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Lb of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on the size
  • 3 dried hot red pepper
  • 2 cans (15oz) of cannellini beans
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 handfuls of parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: I used 1 hot red pepper. I wanted to see how extreme it would be with one. It had a nice warmth to it, but I think it could use a little more. Oh, and did I mention how much I hated cutting all those tomatoes in half and quarters?

Heat a large high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to heat. Once hot, add the sausages and brown on all sides, for about 8 minutes total. Remove the sausages from the pan to plate and reserve.

Add the garlic, and saute until golden and brown. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped tomatoes and red peppers and season with salt and pepper. Lower the flame, and cover the pan with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and thickened to a sauce-like consistency.

NOTE: I am sure it was the tomatoes, but I would have liked more liquid from them. It may just be my addiction to a wonderful loaf of Italian bread being dipped into any kind of liquid!

Add the browned sausages (and any juice left on the plate), beans, and bay leaves to the thickened tomatoes. Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add the chopped parsley before serving.

NOTE: I skipped the parsley and I don’t think I missed it. Debi was right about one thing ~ the smells coming from the pan after you add the tomatoes to the garlic and the juices that came from the sausages was amazing.

I can’t wait to make this again and again. More than that, I can’t wait to try more of their recipes!

Gabriele & Debi – grazie mille!

Roman Style Chicken

It is Giada time over at the IHCC and this week’s theme was “Served Family Style”. One of the things Giada does best is family style meals. And while, it may seem that my family is about to cluck from the amount of chicken we’ve been eating lately, I didn’t want to do a pasta dish. My absolute favorite Giada family style dish is Short Ribs Tagliatelle, but I didn’t want to do that again! So off I went to find a different family style dish and came across this one.

Feeds a lot of people, has an amazing sauce, easy on the pocket ingredients, and cooks in one pot and quickly!

  • 4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

NOTE: I didn’t have prosciutto in the house, but did have diced pancetta in the freezer. I made this sub, and with nearly the same flavor profile, and the small quantity in the dish, I don’t think it made a difference.

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

NOTE: This was VERY saucy. It may have been the can of whole tomatoes that I diced (grabbed the wrong can at the market) or this is just a saucy dish.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

NOTE: Not a caper fan, so I skipped that totally. We served this and devoured it immediately. I had planned on roasted potatoes, but once the scent hit me from the sauce, I knew it had to be polenta. I made a polenta to go with, a salad and a baguette and the family feast was on!