Comforts of Fall
Sometimes, the simple things in life can be the most satisfying...to the soul, to the heart, and, in my case, most importantly, to the stomach.
It's finally Fall; time for leisurely Sundays spent watching Football, time for the leaves to start changing color, time for the weather to cool off and beg you to wrap yourself up in the blanket at the end of the couch, time for the smell of a fireplace burning off in the near distance (damn my studio apartment for not having one), time for putting away tank tops and t-shirts from the summer months and bringing out sweaters, scarves, and jackets to carry us through the Winter months.
Time for simplicity and satisfaction in the form of comfort food. And, in my case, this means whole roasted chicken.
I am starting to keep a food diary, and this is what I wrote the day I roasted this fantastic bird:
"It is a very rainy day here in San Francisco, and this weather only evokes the desire for me to be in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. Nothing is more pleasing than the sound and smell of rain mixed with the sounds and smells of a kitchen humming.
"Brett and I were just at the market, and he asked what was for dinner. I had begun planning a flavorful but lightened-up version of beef stew with white wine and Dijon mustard (a different stretch for me[recipe to come]), but he asked if I could make a roast chicken instead. He really wanted something comforting and loves how I do chicken. Enough said to convince me.
"I immediately thought of making a compound butter, but I wanted to keep it light and bright and not weigh down on our stomachs with the volume of rain falling from the sky. I decided on butter, parsley, shallots, and garlic with lemon..."
Well, I will just pick off where I left off. I am a huge fan of compound butters, especially when it comes to chicken or turkey. Any amount of flavor you can add to butter will only enhance the flavor of the bird, not only the roasted, crispy skin. Some find compound butters daunting; I finds them one of the easiest things to make and use (and freeze for future use!!).
One of my favorite, simple compound butters that works for everything from whole roast chicken, chicken breasts, turkey breasts, or, even Thanksgiving turkey is:
6 cloves garlic
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 C fresh parsley (as if it was packed into a 1/2 C measuring cup - just eyeball it)
1T olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 C (2 sticks) butter, room temperature (very soft)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Place garlic, shallot, parsley, olive oil, and lemon zest in food processor and pulse together to a paste:
Next, add butter and continue to blend together until mixture is thoroughly combined into a luscious, aromatic, buttery paste:
From this state, you can put it in a plastic container and refrigerate or freeze (up to 2 weeks or 6 months, respectively), or keep about 1 C plus 2 tbsp out at room temperature for the chicken. The butter MUST be soft and at room temperature or it will seize up when you try to stuff the chicken with it.
So, onto the chicken; make sure to remove all giblets and anything else stuffed in the cavity of the bird before using. Also, make sure to rinse the bird thoroughly and pat dry.
Next step, loosening the skin between the breast and thigh meat with out tearing it off. You can start loosening the skin either at the neck-end or at the other end, as I have in the picture below. The point of this is to create a "space" to spread the butter between the meat and the skin, allowing the flavors to cook into the bird and outward to the skin.
Gently, without ripping, loosen the skin against the breast. Move your fingers under the skin down to the leg and thigh as well, making a sort of "baloon" under the entire breast-up-side of the chicken.
Using your hands or a spoon, smear some of the butter under the loosened skin; make sure to get the butter all the way down to the leg and thigh meat - you will most likely have to use your hands to get all the way around the leg and thigh meat.
Using the back of the spoon or your fingers, move the butter around under the skin covering the breast to evenly coat the meat. Use the rest of the butter to cover the skin on the outside of the bird as well to aid in creating a crisper skin (and more flavorful one at that!).
Almost ready to go. Note the lemon wedges sticking out the end of the breast bone? Well, I am getting to that.
Here is my "potpourri" of aromatics to stuff my chicken with, to include the lemon slices:
1 medium bunch of fresh parsley
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
8 VERY thin slices of lemon, and then the rest of that lemon roughly chopped
ALL of this goes in the cavity, except the lemon slices. Carefully place each of these slices on top of the butter under the skin covering the breast; this adds just a little more citrus flavor, but it make the chicken that much more visually delicious to eat when the bird is done roasting.
What's leftover of the potpourri can just be scattered on the bottom of the roasting pan:
And, once the chicken is trussed (sorry, no tutorial on trussing this time around...) I place it on a rack, pour about 1/4 C chicken broth or water in the bottom of the pan, and pop the bird in the oven to roast for 30-35 minutes at 450F. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 325F-350F for about 1.5-2 hours until a thermometer inserted next to the thigh bone registers 165F.
I did take some pics of carving the bird, slicing through the moist meat and crispy skin, making a pan gravy with the leftover butter drippings mixed with fresh mushrooms and shallots and parsley, but, alas, leave it to technology because all of the pics turned out a bit fuzzy. So, please try to savor each and every tasty morsel and each and every citrus-y, buttery scent that came from this amazing roast chicken.
One of the best things about roasting this chicken? During the time it took to cook, I poured a glass of wine, grabbed that blanket at the end of the couch and wrapped myself up in it, turned on some Monday Night Football, and listened to the cheers of fans on TV mixed in with the steady downpour of rain outside my window. Even without a fireplace, it all felt very reminiscent of Fall. It's important to enjoy the simple things, especially when they comfort every aspect of your life.
And once the chicken was ready? I peeled that blanket off of me, turned on some Frank Sinatra tunes in the kitchen to carve the bird to, and embraced the warmth that came from the oven's heat. Screw the fireplace, I thought in that moment. And we enjoyed every comforting bite of that simple, perfectly roasted chicken. And, once the dishes were done and the oven was done cooling off, I pulled that blanket back from the end of the couch, took a final sip from my glass of wine, watched the end of the football game, and comfortably fell into the rest of the evening, with the sound of rain still hitting my window, and my stomach happily satisfied.