Wax philosophical with me, misfits:
Have you ever noticed that “simple pleasures” usually aren’t that simple?
For example, a picnic in the park under a shady oak tree presupposes a lot of not-so-simple conditions. First, it should be a nice day. Then, you’ll probably want company for your outdoor repast, right? I mean, if you’re me, you’ll just kidnap The Boy from whatever he’s doing and make him come with, but WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT ME? Well…interacting with the “Real World” is probably a lot easier for you, so I guess it’s a fair trade. Then there’s the whole issue of finding a good tree without too much crabgrass underneath it. No anthills with ants to crawl up your tutu if it’s daytime. No mosquitos to bite you in the center of your forehead if it’s nighttime. You’ll also want a nice view of the outside from the inside, but a terrible view from the outside looking in since you’re probably boozing illegally and you don’t wanna get busted because the cops don’t think it’s funny when you tell them that the bottle actually contains the liquefied remains of your Aunt Beatrice and her dying wish was to be responsible for intoxicating her loved ones one. last. time.
If all that comes together, then you have to figure there’ll be 89,000 other peeps at the park wanting to do the exact same thing, so peace and quiet, let alone a place to lay in the grass without your head attracting every bratty kid’s errant frisbee within a six-mile radius (which is totally my particular talent/cross to bear) might be a bit much to ask.
Yet, most of us can probably claim to have experienced a few really nice picnics. Proof that these so-called “simple pleasures” do, against all odds, happen.
Sunday dinner is another one of those simple pleasures, and if you’ve ever tried to make a nice, juicy roast chicken (doesn’t count if someone gets salmonella), you may have had one of those not-so-simple nights where you hurl the Le Creuset at the wall, screech incoherently, let your head spin 360 degrees on its axis, and free base Xanax and red wine while your family and friends shake their heads and go, “But she used to be such a nice girl…”
What I’m saying is, usually the first few attempts are a bit messy and frustrating and time-consuming and may involve meat thermometers, brining bags, fancy roasting equipment, screaming smoke detectors, kitchen twine, hysterical sobbing, soggy stuffing, Chinese takeout menus, recreational drugs or, AT THE VERY LEAST, giblets that were accidentally left inside the bird. With their plastic wrapping.
None of that need happen to you, of course–you’ve got your Bad Mama Genny to uh, you know…keep things simple.
(Edited 1/6/09: And hey, if you remembered to grab those giblets and wanna try your hand at some traditional gravy, try this link for The Kitchn’s take on a “Proper” Giblet Gravy!)
Perfect (and “Simple”) Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken (be picky here: an organic, free-range bird will yield the best results)
Butter (approximately 1/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons dried parsley (obviously, fresh versions of all of these herbs is nice, though dried works just fine; if you do use fresh, remember to multiply quantities by a factor of 3)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Make your life easy and put the butter and the herbs in small bowls before you start handling the chicken (the seasonings can be mixed together in the same bowl). Preheat your oven to 450F and line your roasting pan. Note the weight of the chicken-you’ll need to know this later to approximate cooking time. Unwrap the chicken, remove any giblets from the cavity, pluck any stray quills, and rinse (inside and out), with cool water. Gently pat dry and lay it in the pan, breast-side up.
Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the bird without detaching it completely or tearing holes in it–do the breast, legs, thighs, and as much of the back as you can reach. Now, using your hands, rub butter on the skin of the bird, over the entire surface, AND between the skin and flesh of all the parts. Repeat this process with your herb rub, making sex noises as you go. Buttering and seasoning both over and under the skin ensures deep, even flavoring and a juicy chicken.
Put the chicken into the oven and note the time. 30 minutes later, reduce the heat to 350F, and note the time. Here’s where the weight of the bird comes in. For a 3 lb. bird, you’ll want to bake it for approximately another hour. For every pound after that, add about 15 minutes to the cooking time (for example, my last chicken weighed 5 lbs., so I baked it at 450 for half an hour, then turned it down to 350 and baked it for another hour and a half).
If you’ve got a meat thermometer, 165F is the standard for safe poultry. I’ve baked chickens using my method many, many times and it has always gotten the chicken to that temperature–if you’re not sure and don’t have a meat thermometer, cut into a thick part of the bird. The flesh should be white, with no traces of pink, and the juice should run clear.
This is the kind of deep color you’re going for. When your bird is done, take the pan out of the oven, carefully remove the chicken from the pan (I use a set of sturdy wooden salad paddles for this), and place it onto a large cutting board. Let it rest for at least ten minutes before carving. (And save the leftover bones and skin in a freezer bag to use for making stock at another time.)