so food / no good
Trouble Baker by trouble baker
Romantic Dinner For Crew
Last year, I left my partner two days before his birthday, four days before Valentine’s day, and one week before our anniversary to spend the month with a friend who had been sent to the edge of death to get rid of her cancer. She had both breasts removed the day I should have been baking a cake, and we spent the night with two other friends in her hospital room making Beyonce and Jay Z related puns and watching Empire. On Valentine’s Day, we made sinister cards painted with the poisonous fluid draining from her surgical scars, bought all of the candy on sale, and went to see the greatest horror film of 2015, Fifty Shades of Grey. I would be lying if I said we did anything more romantic than eat fast food that night.
This year, I climbed a mountain and chastised a friend for getting back together with a boy who was right for a time but not anymore. We went back to my house and I made the following dinner for my friend, my roommate, my partner and myself, because dinner for two is boring anyway.
A roast chicken is easy and impressive if you know a few things in advance:
Spatchcocking. Not necessary, but this technique decreases cooking time and increases the crispy skin factor. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut between the wings along both sides of the spine. Flip the bird over so it’s breast-side up and flatten.
Crispy Skin. A few things will maximize the amount of crispy skin. Spatchcocking is one. Roasting the chicken on top of a bed of vegetables (and what’s listed below is just a suggestion) will allow air to circulate and the juices to drip down away from the skin. Air-drying the chicken will allow moisture on the skin to evaporate to minimize steaming. Rubbing fat all over the chicken will help the natural fats render so you get all that crispy goodness. If you want to get intimate with your dinner, you can slide your fingers underneath the skin, allowing even more air circulation.
Flavor. Salt and pepper is more than enough. You want to be generous, with three healthy pinches of salt sprinkled on top of the skin (and under, if you’re like that). For classic roast chicken flavor, try the zest of one lemon and a tablespoon of thyme (fresh or dried). Smoked paprika is extremely my shit and will give your bird a bit of a barbecue flavor. The absolute best is creating an herbed or spiced butter to then rub all over your bird. Just soften 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter and mix in a clove of minced garlic, some chili flakes or finely chopped chili, and a heaping teaspoon each of turmeric and garam masala. Any spice combination works for this butter, and the fat helps the flavor spread more evenly.
Juiciness. Let your chicken rest for 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. This will allow the meat to reabsorb some of the juices that started flowing during cooking.
If you finish the meal and are too frugal to just toss the carcass, you have the basics for chicken stock. Throw the carcass and any vegetable scraps into a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer for at least an hour. This will give you some broth to make chicken vegetable soup with any remaining meat and veggies, or you can make it the base of a soup. Might I suggest last month’s caldo verde?
Roast Chicken and Vegetables
(generously feeds 4 to 6)
1 whole chicken
A few tablespoons butter or oil
2-3 teaspoons herbs or spices
1 large potato, sweet or white
2 large carrots
Whole Brussels Sprouts
1 head of garlic, broken into individual, unpeeled cloves
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Remove any spare parts (e.g., neck, gizzards, organs) that might be packed with the bird. If you are feeling fancy, spatchcock your bird. Use paper towels to pat the bird dry, inside and out, as thoroughly as possible.
3. Let the bird sit at room temperature, uncovered, for an hour as the oven heats.
4. While you are waiting, chop the potato and carrots into 1-inch chunks. Break apart the head of garlic into cloves and remove excess peel. Spread the vegetables evenly across the bottom of your roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Rub the fat all over the chicken. Season by generously sprinkling salt and any herbs and spices and rub those in for good measure.
6. Place the bird on top of the vegetables, breast/skin side up and put the pan in the oven.
7. Leave it alone for at least 30-40 minutes. The chicken is fully cooked when the juices run clear, or a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165ºF.