Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fresh Chicken and Roasting Recipe

Tonight I had my first ever fresh chicken. What I mean by that is that it was not only free-range, organic and local, but that it had been slaughtered the day or the day before I had purchased it. It had never been frozen. I bought it from a woman at the Norwich Farmers Market yesterday. She owns Thymeless Herbs in Woodstock, VT and she and her daughter were selling chickens, eggs, herbs as you might guess and a wide variety of eye-appealing (and delicious) baked goods. They reminded me of my favorite children's book, Oxcart Man by Donald Hall about a family in the Upper Valley (I think) who send "everything they made or grew all year long that was left over" with the father to sell at the market in Portsmouth.

I was taken aback by how lovely this bird was. In someways I wish I had taken a picture, but I am mostly glad I didn't. In the end, I realize that it's a chicken. But I took a moment to be thankful for the partnership between the family at Thymeless Herbes and my own. They worked and invested to produce an animal which fed my family and I was able to pay them directly for their labors.

I use something loosely based on Nigella Lawson's Roasted Chicken recipe, or method, really, from her book How to Eat:

After removing the innards, I lay the chicken, breast-up, in a cast-iron skillet and then fill the extra space with chopped vegetables: onions, carrots, whole peeled garlic and sometimes fennel bulb if I have it. I cut a lemon in half and put one half inside the chicken. I sprinkle fresh ground pepper and kosher salt over the top and then pour a dime-sized drop of olive oil on the breast of the chicken and rub the oil, pepper and salt all over the skin. As I am doing this I push as many of the vegetables under the bird as I can. Then I squeeze the other half of the lemon all over the top and drop it into the skillet.

I then roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes per pound, plus 10 minutes. Get out your calculator and use the exact weight to determine the roasting time. If you are really on top of things, throw a couple of zucchini breads into the oven with your chicken to leverage the energy used by the oven. Today I was. It was a pretty rock-star day.

The advantage of using the cast-iron skillet is that when your chicken is done (180 degrees in the thigh joint) you can transfer it to a cutting surface, put your skillet on the burner and make your gravy, taking advantage of all the brown bits on the bottom. To make the gravy, transfer all vegetables to a serving dish, discard lemon and then heat skillet on burner and stir all contents, scraping the bottom. When you have a little bit of a simmer going, throw in the gizzard (not the liver!) The gizzard looks like a heart. Then add a little bit of cornstarch and a then a little bit of chicken stock until you get the consistency that you want. Some people strain their gravy. I never do. I also like orange juice labeled "high pulp."

To make "in the moment stock" add your chicken's neck to 6 cups of water in a pot and simmer. You can also add the out layer (not the paper layer) of the onion you used and the ends of the carrot along with some salt and pepper.

Carve your bird and serve with its vegetable roasting companions and your gravy. Tonight I threw together a Summer Harvest Stuffing. Tomorrow we are planning to make Pesto Chicken Pizza. Had I not been so taken by the beauty of this foul and my own self-satisfaction in how I acquired it, I probably would not have used the livers for the stuffing linked above. I typically save them throughout the year to make pate for Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. One note on gravy: I neglected to properly address the gizzard. Cook it in your gravy until brown, then take it out and discard.