Filed under: dinner, recipe | Tags: carrots, childhood, green beans, last meal, nostalgia, roast chicken
Published April 4, 2011
Several years ago, I was watching a cooking competition TV show where the contestants had been tasked to create a last meal for 5 or 6 famous chefs. In an instant, without hesitation or concern, I knew what my last meal would be, should I ever have to request it: roast chicken with sweet potatoes, carrots smothered in butter and green beans.
No matter how much I think about it, I can’t fully explain my choice.
There are so many meals that I love, so many tastes that remind me of adventures, home, favorite memories. There’s my mom’s spaghetti, my French love, pain au chocolate, or my favorite childhood meal, green chile chicken enchiladas.
And yet, my choice is roast chicken. It is soothing, simple, rustic. I instantly think of bare feet, dirty from picking herbs in the garden, walking on my parent’s wood floors. The dirt is crunching, there’s a slight feeling of guilt for tracking mud, and everything smells like chicken.
But my nostalgia is out of place. I’ve lived in a city my whole life and, until recently, chicken has always come wrapped in plastic sans innards from the grocery store. (it still comes wrapped in plastic, except now there are guts and farmers)
As it turns out, the nostalgia comes from a previous generation. My mom grew up with chickens – bred specifically for dinner. Upon sighting a 9-pound bird at the Meat Shop, just like the ones they raised, her eyes lit up and the afternoon was filled with excited stories of “our chickens growing up.”
I may have inherited my nostalgia for roast chicken, but the love is all my own.
Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
If you don’t have a 9-pound chicken, use the following times for cooking: 3-pounds, 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes; 4-pounds, 1 hour and 15 to 30 minutes; 4 1/2 pounds, 1 hour and 25 to 40 minutes; 5 1/4 pounds, 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes; 9-pounds, 3 hours.
3/4 tsp salt (in 1/4 tsp increments)
5 Tbsp softened butter
1 large onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
A couple sprigs thyme
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 Tbsp shallot or onion
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp softened butter
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Clean the chicken and pat the outside dry with paper towels. In a 12 inch skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter. Once hot, begin to brown the chicken, turning the bird once every 3-5 minutes until all sides have a nice, light brown coloring.
Sprinkle the inside of the bird with salt, smear in 1 Tbsp butter and add the onion quarters, carrot pieces, thyme sprigs and lemon into the cavity. Truss the chicken. Rub the skin with the 1 Tbsp butter.
Place the chicken breast up in the roasting pan (it’s easiest to set in a V-shaped roasting rack inside the pan). In a small sauce pan, combine 2 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil, cook until just melted.
Allow the chicken to continue browning for 15 minutes, turning it every 5 minutes and basting after each turn, finish with the chicken resting on one side. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Leave the chicken on its side and baste every 10 minutes, using any fat collected in the roasting pan if you run out of the butter and oil mixture.
Halfway through the cooking time, salt the chicken with 1/4 tsp salt and turn on its other side.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the estimated cooking time, salt with 1/4 tsp salt and turn the chicken breast up.
Using a thermometer, check for doneness. The breast should read 170 degrees and the thigh should be at 180. Let the chicken rest for 10 – 15 minutes under tented foil before carving.
For the sauce, use the roasting pan. Remove all but 2 tbsp chicken fat. Add in the shallots or onion and cook slowly. Add in the chicken stock and boil rapidly, scraping up any fond. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, add in 1 tbsp butter.
Serve with roast carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes or potatoes.
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