Last night, as I stood over our kitchen sink clutching a whole uncooked chicken and whimpering, “Ew, ew, Jared, what’s that inside there? Can you pleeease get it out?” I realized something. This little blog has taken me all sorts of places I never thought I’d go. Jared aptly described the event as my first Julie and Julia moment (the moment with the chicken, that is, not my great epiphany), which made me feel slightly more legit about this whole cooking adventure. Although I much prefer a world of flour, sugar and spices to one of raw meat and chicken cavities, I will no longer instantly shudder at recipes that call for small whole poultry. I’d say that’s progress.
My reason for being wrist deep in poultry last night was a grand attempt at roast chicken, a classic I thought it was high time I tried. And because Ina Garten (a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa) is much loved and much raved for her roast chicken recipe, she was my immediate go-to. I’ve spent so much time avoiding meals that require too much direct contact with uncooked meat, so I was pleasantly surprised by how simple this dish was to prepare. I mean, after the shock of handling the raw bird and stuffing it with more than it seemed willing to handle and a brief panic over whether its legs should be tied side by side or slightly crossed, things ran pretty smoothly. After about 20 minutes of prep work (five minutes of peeling, slicing and cutting vegetables plus 15 or so minutes of poultry wrangling), our chicken was in the oven and roasting away for the next hour and 25 minutes — which left plenty of time for a satisfying bleach-filled decontamination of my kitchen (I felt an incredibly strong desire/need to clean anything the chicken touched or maybe touched. Or maybe thought about touching. Thus another reason for the sporadic appearances of chicken at our dinner table).
One clean kitchen and cooked dinner later, and I now know why Ina is the queen of the roast chicken. Everything from the carrots to the onions to the chicken itself was perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned and unbelievably tender. Like fall-off-the-bone kind of tender. And with 2 feet of snow on the ground outside, this was just the kind of back-to-basics comfort the weatherman ordered.
Perfect Roast Chicken
From Ina Garten, FoodNetwork.com
• 1 roasting chicken, 5 to 6 pounds
• 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 melted butter
• 1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
• 4 to 6 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
• 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed and cut into wedges
• olive oil (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove chicken giblets, rinse chicken inside and out, remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers, and pat the outside dry. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken (liberally). Stuff cavity with the bunch of thyme, lemon and garlic. Brush outside of chicken with melted butter, and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen string, and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place onions, carrots and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme and olive oil, and then 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 chicken onto a platter, and serve it with the vegetables.
Have you conquered a cooking fear recently or tried a new recipe that seemed too big to handle? What was it, and how did it go? I can’t wait to hear it!