Don't you love those little unexpected moments of elegance in life?
I'm not talking about the fancy-shmancy event that forces you and your significant other into black tie and stiff shoes. I'm talking about the unanticipated moments; the ones you don't see coming, the ones that seem almost out of context.
Take roast chicken, for example.
I do not for the life of me know how chicken could seem sophisticated to me, yet the smell of a whole bird roasting in my oven gives me a little thrill. Usually, I roast a chicken on a Sunday afternoon while I'm wearing a pair of jeans and doing something pedestrian like watering my African violets or sorting the recycling. In spite of this, a whiff of roasting chicken and thyme makes me think of grown-up dinner parties, of dangling earrings, of funny stories being told over adult laughter, and of good wine. I think of white taper candles flickering in tall holders, of jazz and old standards audible through the lively conversation.
Is this a memory from my childhood? From my own adulthood?
I can't recall this exact meal from anytime in my past, that's the odd part of this impression. Yet it strikes me whenever I roast a whole chicken.
Memories or impressions aside, roast chicken is a terrific entree for an intimate dinner party of friends. For one thing, it presents so beautifully. For another, it is delicious.
Maybe I'll wear a pair of dangling earrings tonight, just to do this bird justice.
A Fritter Original
1 whole 3-pound chicken, innards removed
2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus 1 additional tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lemon, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but sliced open at the ends
1 handful of fresh thyme, plus a few extra sprigs for garnish
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled, and chopped in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and ends trimmed
2 parsnips, peeled and ends trimmed
4 strips of bacon
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, setting your oven to "broil."
Rinse the bird and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the chicken breast side down into a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof skillet. Roasting any bird breast side down ensures juiciness and prevents the over-roasting of the breast meat, which cooks faster than the thighs.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the bird and coat it using your hands. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper inside and out. Insert one of the lemon quarters, the fresh thyme, and the garlic cloves into the cavity of the chicken. Spread the strips of bacon evenly over the top of the chicken.
After carefully washing your hands, assemble the onion quarters, carrots, fennel, and the remaining lemon quarters around the chicken and drizzle these with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over the vegetables.
Broil the chicken at 500 degrees for 5-8 minutes, until the skin starts to brown. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and cook for another 30-35 minutes. The chicken is done when a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees, and the juices in the space between the breast and the thigh run clear.
Carve the chicken by carefully turning it over and running a sharp knife down the center breast bone. Then carve a parallel line down toward the wing then toward the thigh, meeting the first cut at the breast bone. You should come away with the whole breast. You can pop the thigh bones out by inserting a knife into the joints and breaking off the bone. Wings can be separated in a similar manner. Additional carving assistance can be found here.
Assemble the meat on a plate , garnish with a few sprigs of thyme, and surround with roasted vegetables. Serve.
Serves: 2 hungry adults