roasted chicken & potatoes

          in the southern indiana county where i grew up, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Oster was well known for her gardens and her knowledge of plants. she taught her classes how to grow creeping phlox from seeds, about vegetable gardens, and about where our food comes from. for one of our field trips she took us to a chicken farm run by several generations of the same family. we knew the chickens were being raised to be eaten, but we saw that they pecked around mostly free during the day, and roosted in large barns at night, protected from raccoons and fox. while they were alive anyway, they had good chicken lives.
          on the day of that field trip my mother sent me to school with this order, "do not bring home a chicken" . . . right. you guessed it . . . i used a nickel of my lunch money to buy a tiny yellow chick that fit easily into my hand. he did nothing but "peep-peep-peep" in the box i carried him home in, so i named him "little peep" and we all thought he was pretty cute.
          too bad he grew up to be anything but. downy little peep turned out to be the biggest, meanest damn rooster i still have ever seen. my sisters, my brother, and our cousins were terrified of my monster-sized chicken with the sharp spurs who chased after us every day when we got off of the school bus.
          little-ornery-peep ruled our back yard until the day he pecked my younger sister near her eye, and soon after that he disappeared. "he's better off at the neighbor's–they need a rooster", my father stretched out an explanation to me. but i suspect the ugly-tough-old bird met his end with some buck-shot, and i can't say there was any sorrow over his departure.

          recently while i was seasoning a chicken to roast, i thought about growing up on a small farm, about my wicked pet rooster, and about the other chickens and cattle we raised that ended up on our table for dinner, along with the vegetables we grew. i remembered Mrs. Oster's lessons too, and my memories made me grateful for the sacrifices and effort it ultimately takes to get a good meal onto our plates. i do think it's best to know where our food comes from.
          this simple, roasted chicken recipe produces a moist, earthy and hearty entree that will also pair well with an aged bordeaux wine. i added potatoes to the roasting pan after cooking it for about 1/2 hour so it all came out at the same time, spilling fragrant garlic and thyme into the kitchen. the menu i served with it is as follows:
• pureed acorn squash soup seasoned with thyme click here for blog post 
• caramelized leeks
• whole, roasted garlic chicken and potatoes with a morel mushroom reduction in butter, olive oil and chicken stock
• 1 whole chicken
• 3-4 cloves of minced garlic
• kosher salt and pepper
• olive oil
• 2 lemon quarters lemon
• fresh minced thyme and some thyme sprigs
• chicken stock
1. rinse the chicken well and pat it dry.
2. gently work your hands under the skin of the breasts and thighs and rub them with olive oil, a little of the minced garlic, some fresh thyme, salt and pepper.
3. rub olive oil generously all over the outside of the chicken and in the cavity.
4. give the lemon quarters a gentle squeeze and put them into the cavity along with the thyme sprigs and some more of the garlic, salt and pepper.
5. put the whole chicken into the bottom of a roasting pan and tress it. let it sit for 15 min. or so to absorb the flavorings.
6. heat the oven to 375 degrees.
7. put the chicken into the oven and let it brown for about 15min.
8. pour chicken stock over the chicken and use the liquid to baste is every 15min. for the next hour or so until the thigh meat reaches 150 or 160 degrees.
9. remove the pan from the oven and let it rest about 15 min. then, carve and serve.


Roberta said...

Patty, this looks so good! I cant wait to try it! I dont do much with leeks, how do I caramelize them? Do I do them like onions? Oh and i love your story too!!!

patty said...

hi roberta . . . yes, you can prepare them like other onions, but they don't take quite as long because they're more delicate. i also like to deglaze the pan with a little white wine so i have a nice sauce to use if i want to . . . happy cooking!