52 Dinners - Week 1: Roast Chicken as Dazzling First Impression
Our good friend Justin came to dinner last night, along with his two dogs, Titus and Wolcott, and his charming new companion, Andrew.
It was Andrew's first time to dinner in our home, so I kept things very casual by simply roasting a chicken.
Even so, it's easy enough to dress up an easy breezy chicken dinner by using fun china. My in-laws picked up this beautiful octagonal set for me at a thrift store last year. Settings for eight plus all of the additional serving pieces for $10.
We started with a nice little salad of arugula, pear, pomegranate, chevre, and pistachio, dressed with a zippy lemon champagne vinaigrette. I was originally planning on creating just one post per dinner party, with a slideshow of photos and not much commentary. But apparently I have lots to say, so I'll wait and share photos of dinner and dessert tomorrow, along with my roast chicken recipe.
You may already have a tried and true roast chicken recipe in your pocket. But if you don’t, let’s chat!
I think I’ve tried most methods out there, and Ina Garten’s is the clear winner. (I once heard her referred to as The Undisputed Roast Chicken Queen. Maybe if I work hard enough I can someday claim that title). An online search for ‘Ina’s Perfect Roast Chicken’ will tell you *almost* all you need to know. Here’s my version of her version:
- Preheat your oven to 425°
- Salt and pepper that sucker inside and out. I don’t rinse it beforehand.
- Shove a couple garlic cloves, a halved lemon, and some fresh herbs into the cavity. You’ll be tempted to skip the lemon but don’t.
- My addition: take about half a pound of cold butter and cut into rectangular chunks. Slide the butter underneath the breast skin.
- Tie the legs together.
- Brush the whole thing with melted butter or olive oil (I use bacon fat). Then salt and pepper again.
- Fill a cast iron with your veggies. Toss them with olive oil, s&p. I used Brussels, potatoes, carrot, fennel, and onion.
- Plop the bird on top, breast up, and place the pan on the lower rack of the oven for about 75-90 minutes, or until thigh meat registers at about 160°, legs jiggle, and/or juices run clear. No flipping, tenting, or temperature adjusting required. Set it and forget it. Well, don’t forget about it.
- Remove the chicken from pan, wrap in foil and rest for a while. I give it at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, broil the vegetables for a few moments it you’re so inclined.
- Cut and plate chicken, drizzle with the hot chicken juice from the veggie pan. Done.
A note on vegetables. I used to fret that my chicken and vegetables would be done at different times, so I’d roast them separately. But I got over that. By keeping them as pretty big chunkers and placing them under the bird, they’ll be perfect. If they do end up a little overcooked and mushy, nbd. Just broil them. Soft on the inside, crisp outside, soaked in chicken juice and butter.
The recipe is from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, one of my absolute favorite cookbooks. It calls for puréed sweet potatoes in lieu of cream. In addition to the cinnamon in the recipe, I added ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and freshly ground black pepper
Small countertop ice cream machines are actually quite affordable, and a whole lot of fun. I recommend it
I really enjoy serving ice cream and sorbet for dessert. Fresh homemade ice cream is a special treat that few folks get to enjoy, at least not regularly. Plus, flavor combinations are pretty much limitless. And it can all be prepared ahead of time! (Actually, it must be).
Most of all, it gives me an opportunity to use Doris’s crystal.
Week one, all done! Until next time, friends!
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