Perfect Roast Chicken

Crisp, golden, juicy roast chicken – it’s really good


We’re just back from our rear end-numbing road trip to Maine, and as good as it was to get outta town, arriving home feels like work. There’s more laundry and unpacking to do, along with grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen, since no matter how much I try to clean out the fridge before a vacation, I’m always greeted on my return by some forgotten container of leftovers and yogurt with green hair growing out of it.

A simple meal like roast chicken is so easy and comforting when the cupboard is bare. All you need – besides the chicken of course – are basic seasonings, a hot oven or, if the weather is nice, an outdoor grill.

I don’t know why, but the thought of cooking a whole chicken (yes, with the bones!) can seem daunting to some cooks. For instance, my mother hardly ever served roasted chicken when I was growing up – instead, it was saved for special occasions at a restaurant.

And I know how convenient it’d be to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but I have a problem with those; by the time you get it home, the chicken has been stewing under a heat lamp for hours; dried out and overcooked.

I’ve been making a version of this chicken recipe for years now. Sometimes we roast it on the grill, which produces an even better chicken with crisp, golden skin and a delicious smoky aroma. The method is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a cookbook I consider an absolute necessity in the kitchen.

This is also a great way to make use of any leftovers the next day. Make a chicken taco with some shredded chicken, or pile chunks on some crusty bread and make a panini with basil, goat cheese and slow roasted tomatoes.

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 small lemon
Optional seasonings, depending on what you have on hand:
A handful of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley
One or two garlic cloves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the chicken in a shallow roasting pan or casserole and pat the skin dry with paper towels.

Mix together the salt and pepper in a small dish; season the chicken on all sides, rubbing over the skin into the cavity.

Poke about a dozen holes in the lemon with a fork or a skewer and place in the cavity. Tuck the herbs and/or garlic in with the lemon, if using, and tie the legs together with a 12-inch-long piece of kitchen twine.

Arrange the chicken breast side down and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast an additional 30 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the skin is golden and juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing or carving. Save the juices that run out and serve with the chicken.

To roast in an outdoor grill, prepare grill for indirect cooking and heat to medium-high. Place chicken breast down directly on the grill rack and cook as described above.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Farm Fresh Summer Tomato Salad

Simplicity in a bowl – fresh ripe tomatoes
After a just one week here in Maine, I’m reveling in the peak of summer produce – what could be better? 

The weekly bounty

My Missouri friend Alanna (of A Veggie Venture), and Stephen Cooks, have been maintaining a virtual relationship with the folks at Wolf Pine Farm, a community-supported farm in southern Maine. In a simple twist of fate, it happens to be the very same CSA that my sister and brother-in-law belong to, and is always at the top of my list of places to visit during our annual summer trips.

As I helped L gather her weekly share, I couldn’t help thinking that summer is almost over – all the more reason to savor the simple, fleeting pleasures of sweet summer tomatoes.

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Fresh tomatoes, in a a variety of colors and sizes
Extra-virgin olive oil, the best you can find
Salt
Finely sliced red onion, optional 

Serve the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt. Stir in some sliced onions, if you’re feeling adventurous.

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Basil Vodka Gimlets

Ultimate summer refresher – Lemon basil infused gimlets
We’re here in Maine, escaping a Midwestern heat wave and eating blueberries, lobster and corn on the cob until our bellies swell like overfilled beach balls.

Tomorrow we visit Wolf Pine Farm, which I’ll be sure to report on. For now though, here’s a a welcoming drink; a delicious summer cocktail I lifted from the July issue of Gourmet magazine. It was hard to have just one.

Lemon Basil Vodka Gimlets
adapted from Gourmet magazine
makes 6 drinks

1 cup lemon basil syrup*
3/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sparkling water
1 cup ice cubes
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher until cold, then strain into 8-ounce glasses half filled with ice.

Lemon Basil Syrup

1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Zest from 1 lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until to dissolve sugar.
Cool; strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl or measuring cup. Chill until cold.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food