The type of stormy weather we experienced last week leaves us longing for the safety of home and family.
The type of stormy weather we experienced last week leaves us longing for the safety of home and family. Anyone able to stay snugly in their own house may have gravitated to the kitchen trying to recreate the cocoon of childhood while high winds and horizontal rain hurled leaves and branches against the windows.
I talked to family members in New Jersey who were thankful for their personal safety despite property damage and loss.
So many families this far north were grateful for the ample warning time to get to the hardware store for flashlights and batteries, lanterns and candles, and to the grocery store for water and supplies. Many grabbed a roast for the oven. Its cooking aromas brought a feeling of rightness with the world.
The roast — chicken or beef or pork — was grandma’s and great-grandma’s Sunday specialty. Extended families gathered around the table weekly to share gather strength for the week ahead. Grandmas surrounded their roasts with vegetables from the garden or ample supply of Ball jars in the pantry, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
My grandmother, who specialized in a row of three roasted chickens in one large pan, had no use for mashed potatoes except as an ingredient in her delicious potato patties. She was willing to spend the extra time boiling, mashing, mixing, pan-frying in butter and olive oil. Today, she’d probably be invited to make them in a TV guest spot. I can almost picture her teaching Guy Fieri how to cook them up for the crowd she’d expect at her kitchen table.
I still like that roasted chicken dinner. But these days, with grandma’s recipe as the guideline, I steal a technique or two from the French. I start the chicken, breast side down, on a raised rack in the roasting pan. I cook it that way for the first 15 minutes, then turn it breast side up to continue. This way I don’t end up with a lot of soggy skin on the bottom.
I use coarse sea salt, rather than fine granulated salt. And I add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender to the other herbs sprinkled over the chicken.
HERB ROASTED CHICKEN
Makes 6 servings
Whole peeled carrots and parsnips, onion wedges, fennel bulbs and whole radishes placed in the bottom of the roasting pan so that the juices drip over them, infuse the chicken with their flavors. Scooped out into a large bowl, they make a lovely side dish.
1 large (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
3 stick (8 tablespoons) softened butter
1 teaspoon crumbled sage leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat outside dry. Cream half the butter with half the sage, thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Loosen the breast skin and gently, so that the skin does not tear, work the butter under it.
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Place chicken breast side down in a roasting pan. Rub the remaining butter over the skin. Sprinkle the remaining herbs and salt and pepper which will all stick to the butter. Transfer the pan to the oven.
After 15 minutes, turn the chicken over, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes per pound, basting once or twice with the pan juices. The chicken is done when an oven thermometer, pierced into the thickest part of the thigh (don’t touch bone), registers between 160 and 165 degrees and the juices run clear. Let it stand for 10 minutes before carving.
For a crowd
Stuffing is cooked inside the bird; dressing bakes separately in a casserole. You get more if you don’t put it in the bird. It’s safer and it cooks quicker.
1 loaf white bread
1 stick butter, unsalted
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
a handful fresh sage leaves or a teaspoon Bell’s seasoning
salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
a few cups chicken stock
“Stale up” the bread slices on a sheetpan in a low oven, 200 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch ovenproof casserole.
Crumble the bread into a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and celery and cook over medium-low heat until softened, not browned or crunchy. Scrape all of this, including the butter, into the bowl with the crumbled bread. Crumble in the sage leaves or sprinkle in the Bell’s seasoning. Add salt and pepper. Pour in chicken stock by the half-cup until moist as you like it.
Take a tablespoonful of the mixture, heat, and taste. Add more sage or Bell’s, more salt or pepper until you like the flavor.
Transfer the stuffing mixture into the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven halfway through the cooking. Add some chicken stock so that it moistens the mixture. If the chicken is cooked and there are a few drippings, you may want to drizzle them over the top of the casserole when you add the extra stock.
Check out LindABCooks@wordpress.com for the potato pattie recipe.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.