A chicken slathered in butter or rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and your herb of choice, and roasting away for an hour in a hot oven will:
calm your nerves
enflame amorous passion in your spouse
delight your children
and pretty much heal the world of all its ills
Yet oddly enough, in this strange age, many are unfamiliar with whole chickens. They are a sublime and simple Sunday dinner, and yet they are largely untried.
In my own childhood I was only ever acquainted with packages of cellophane wrapped breasts and thighs and legs resting sedately on thick pads of styrofoam. I had never ever seen with my own eyes the kind of bird that could stand on its own two legs on the kitchen counter and entertain its guests with a little rumba before being popped into the oven.
And then one day I happened across "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" at our local library. It was in that book that I found the words:
"Not everything that I do with my roast chicken
is necessarily scientific. Many aspects of my method
are based on my feeling
(So far, yawn. But now comes the next part:)
"For instance, I always give my bird a generous
butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why?
Because I think the chicken likes it-and, more important,
I like to give it."
That's the imcomprable Julia Child. Jacques Pepin proved equally educational and entertaining.
And when you hold your first whole chicken, naked, in your hands, you will know instinctively that every word she wrote about the subject is TRUE. Absurd. Silly. And even slightly risque, but oh so true!
Since we are offering little flower farm CSA members the opportunity to purchase pastured whole chickens, we thought it only right we pass on our tried and ture family recipe so that you will:
1. Spread the Joy!
2. Send in your meat order!
First off: Obtain a good chicken.
Jacques Pepin writes:
"I always try to get real organic free-range chickens.
I find that they have more flavor- a result, I believe, of
more natural diet and growing conditions."
(Need I mention that our chickens are not only free-range, but they are also sung old irish airs and ditties and are soothed by gentle petting before they are dispatched?)
Next: Preheat oven to 400-425 degrees. (Don't be afraid of the high heat! It's the cook's best friend!)
Now: Rinse and pat chicken dry. At this point get the kids involved. Allow them to put on one last "chicken can-can dance".
Next: Slather their hands with olive oil or soft butter and, as Julia says, massage that chicken because "it likes it."
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and your herb of choice. We often use sage or thyme. Sometimes Rosemary.
Rest the chicken in a baking dish and add about 1 Cup of water to the dish to increase pan juices for a gravy later.
Roast for 1 hour and 10minutes to 1 hour and 1/2.
Now: (IMPORTANT!!!) Remove chicken from dish, place on a plate and cover with foil. It must rest for 20 minutes. This is what gives you a moist chicken instead of a dry one which you apologize to dinner guests for. After 20 minutes the juices will have distributed evenly and all will be well.
While your chicken is resting, and composing itself for its big entrance, make your gravy from the pan juices.
The word "roux" is French, and as such presents something of an obstacle to the midwestern mind. But contrary to all the rumours it is the simplest thing in the world.
Take a TBsp (or 2) of butter and melt it in a small saucepan.
Add a heaping giant spoonful of flour and whisk it together.
Next add your pan juices in a steady stream whisking all the while, and then add 1/2 cup (or more if you wish) of chicken stock, white wine, or water even.
Let it bubble away till thickened and your last magic ingredient (besides pepper) will be salt. Salt to taste- which means TASTE IT! Salt has made the difference many a time between a gravy and something too rapturous and scrumptious to decently and dignifiedly elaborate on.
This chicken is how you:
1. Make toddlers happy (and quiet.)
2. Greet a hungry husband after a long hard day at work
3. Greet a hungry wife after a long hard day at work
4.Propose to the girl of your dreams
5. Create domestic bliss in exactly one hour and a half
6. Change the blessed world one meal at a time.
ONE LAST THING:
When you take that first bite
I guarantee you will SWEAR
Luciano Pavorotti is singing
"NESSUN DORMA" in your head.