Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Coming of Fall

     There is one reason I've been waiting for fall. For coldness and chilly toes and red noses (my nose gets very red when it's cold, all the time. It's a curse.) I have been waiting to be able to turn my oven onto 400 degrees for an hour and more without my apartment getting like a sauna. And I've been waiting to do this for one special reason: Roast Chicken.

     There is something about fall weather that calls out roast chicken to me. Maybe its the sudden thunderstorms of Philly that keep getting me soaked and cold, or the long dreary gray walks under sunless skies, but a perfectly golden roast chicken with crispy skin and moist insides just sounds better and better all the time. Which is why I made a roast chicken on Thursday night.


     But let me tell you, this was not any roast chicken. This was a celebration dinner with my friend KK who was visiting. It was also an opportunity to roast lovely slices of sweet potato underneath the chicken, so they could catch all the chicken drippings. Deliciousness. It was a roast chicken that was accompanied by the Disney movie Tangled because that is what grown up chicken-roasting college girls watch. And it was the most perfect roast chicken I have ever eaten.

     Partially, it's the recipe. I use Nigella Lawson's super simple roast chicken recipe: stick half a lemon inside the chicken, massage its breast with butter and salt and pepper, and place it in a 400 degree oven: that's it. But maybe it was me using an entire lemon instead of half, or brining the chicken for an hour before roasting it, or the accidental purchase of the best chicken at the store- but this roast chicken turned out to be the moistest chicken I (and KK) have ever eaten.

     I cannot even fathom telling you how good it was. You will just have to make it yourself, cut through that crispy skin into the succulent meat because both dark and white were equally delicious, and find out for yourself the perfection in the simplicity. Then find out again the next day when you make roast chicken sandwiches out of the leftovers and sit there chewing on the couch going: Ahhhh who knew leftover chicken could be so delicious.

Simple Roast Chicken
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat

1 Whole Chicken for Roasting
Cloves (optional) 
1 small Lemon 
1 tbsp Butter

This recipe starts with buying a whole chicken for roasting. Once you bring it home, if you are planning to cook it the same or the next day, take out its giblets and stick it straight into a large bowl filled with water, a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and 2 cloves (optional). If the chicken is for the next day, cover it and place it in the fridge in its brining bowl. (Whenever you plan to cook the chicken, try to brine it overnight before because this means it stays extra moist.) If you are cooking the chicken the same day, try to let it sit in its brine for at least an hour, to get it all moistened up.

Once you are ready to cook, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Take the chicken out of the water, allowing all the water inside it to drain out. Pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels because otherwise the skin won't get crisp. Next, stuff a small lemon inside the chicken (I tend to look at my chicken first and then go out and buy the largest lemon I think will fit inside it). Once that is done, take half of your tablespoon of butter and massage it into the chicken Under the skin of the breast into the meat itself. Take the rest of the butter and rub it around on the skin of the chicken. Then, sprinkle a little salt and pepper onto your hand, and massage that under the skin into the breast of the chicken. Get yourself a little more salt and pepper and rub it over the rest of the chicken. You don't need a lot, just a sprinkling.

Once the chicken is duly massaged, place it on a roasting rack on top of a roasting pan and into the oven. Nigella says it takes 15 minutes per pound plus ten minutes. I generally have my chicken in the oven for about an hour, and the best way of checking if its done is to stick a knife into it and see if the juices coming out are red (not done) or clear (done!).

Note: I never roast my chicken alone. In the roasting pan, I generally spread a generous amount of olive oil. I either cube up russet potatoes or slice sweet potatoes thinly and then turn them around in the olive oil so they get nice and coated. I try to spread them apart in a single layer, then I sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and some spices if I have anything (generally a little paprika and red chili powder on potatoes, and cinnamon and a little bit of honey over the sweet potatoes). If you have a large chicken, the vegetables will probably be done before the chicken, so take them out about 45-50 minutes into cooking time regardless of your chicken. Leftover roast veggies go great in roast chicken sandwiches!