March 21 – April 3, 2022
Tuesday 3/22: Spring Pasta with Mushrooms, Chiles and Spring Peas
Thursday 3/24: Crispy Chicken with Za’atar-Olive Rice and Feta
Friday 3/25: Herby Dutch Baby with Smoked Salmon and Roasted Kale
March 28 – April 3, 2022
Monday 3/28: Pork Chops with Sherry Pan Sauce and Tri-Color Salad
Thursday3/31: Birthday Dinner La Via Trattoria
Sunday 4/3: Roast Chicken with Croutons, Asparagus, Tri-Color Salad
Don’t Be a Chicken, Cook One
Our statistician tells us that we have offered 331 recipes for cooking chicken. This would seem to be a bit of an obsession. But it turns out that we have also offered 416 recipes for pasta, 298 for fish and shellfish, 176 soup recipes, 307 recipes for beef, pork or veal, and even 4 recipes for hummus.
It remains true, however, that we have advised you to cook a whole lot of chicken. That makes sense for several reasons. First, there is a lot of chicken to cook (In the United States in 2020 the chicken population was 518.3 million) and if we are not diligent about eating them they could take over whole swaths of our prairies and woodlands. [Trust me, you do not want to walk across a prairie swarming with chickens.] Second, while chicken is a relatively mild tasting animal, it is a perfect vehicle for flavors running from the sweet tang of General Tso’s to the spicy Vindaloo to good old American barbecue. Third, a good sized bird or two medium ones can feed a lot of folks for not much money. Finally, cooking chicken regularly will be very helpful to chicken farmers and will please us a lot. What more do you need to know?
Well, it turns out that there are at least three more things you should know:
- How to dry and truss a chicken
- How to butcher a chicken.
- How long to cook a chicken.
As for the first, we are advocates of drying chickens with paper towels (a fair number of towels may be needed). Most chickens in the market have been frozen, then thawed. I.e., they are pretty wet. Rinsing the chicken only adds more water as well as spreading any e coli in the bird across your sink. So just unpack and dry and try not to let the moisture from the chicken get on your kitchen counters – oh, and wash your hands well.
Now about trussing. There are two reasons to truss the bird: 1. To make it a nice compact bundle so that all of the meat will cook at the same time. 2. To expose as much skin as possible so that it crisps up. There are great internet videos on this.
Butchering a chicken is something I have learned through a lot of practice and there are very good videos on the web which can teach you to do this. But you will have to practice – theory being one thing, performance another, as all golfers know.
The key to chicken cooking time is a good instant read thermometer. If your chicken reads out at 165 F (insert the thermometer between the leg and the thigh), its time to remove it from the grill or the oven and cover it with foil for about 15 minutes, during which it will continue cooking and be perfect when you cut it up. Note: For chicken parts, the same temperature is good, but boneless parts will cook quicker than bone-in and breasts quicker than thighs. Again, theory is one thing, practice another and the instant thermometer a whole other.
I know that was a long way around to explaining why this particular recipe for roast chicken is worth your while, but we needed to get your attention and to make sure that you don’t serve a diseased, undercooked or badly butchered bird. In this recipe you cook a well-seasoned bird which you have brushed with melted butter, on a layer of sliced onions. You then slice the chicken into serving pieces and serve it on a platter of savory croutons nto which the pan juices and onions have soaked. If you have a better recipe – let me know.
Note: The Boys took Beez and me to Le Via Trattoria (sic) in Lawrenceville for my birthday dinner. I miss the old Cure Restaurant with the wonderfully-tusked boars’ heads on the wall, but the food was very good and the service was superb and you should go there.
Lemon Chicken with Croutons
(adapted from Ina Garten – Barefoot in Paris)
Timing: 100 minutes to 110 minutes (includes 10 minute prep)
1 4-5 lb. roasting chicken (we used a 6 lb. chicken and increased the cooking time by about 10 minutes)
Large yellow onion, sliced
2 lemons, quartered
6 cups of bread cubes (about 1 large baguette)
2 tablespoons butter
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 F
Slice the onion and toss with olive oil in a small roasting pan. (We used a skillet – if you do, you’ll want to place the skillet on a sheet pan when you put it in the over, to avoid any dripping onto the floor of the oven.)
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter
Dry the chicken well, inside and out. Remove any excess fat. (Save giblets for another use). Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and place the lemons inside the chicken.
Truss the chicken.
Place the chicken on the onions and brush the chicken with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cut baguette or boule into ¾ inch cubes. Set aside.
Roast the chicken for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thigh (don’t touch the bone) reads 165 F. Another way to check for doneness is to see if the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.
Rest and Serve:
Cover the chicken with foil and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before carving.
While the chicken is cooking heat a large sauté pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Then lower heat to medium-low and sauté the bread cubes until browned – about 10 minutes. You will need to add more olive oil as the bread soaks it up. Salt and pepper the croutons while hot and spread on the bottom of a serving platter.
Slice the chicken and place it and the pan juices on top of the croutons. Sprinkle with some sea salt crystals and serve.