When the temperature drops to below 20 and I can’t walk outside without my joints instantly freezing, I stop being the “girl about town” and become, instead, “the girl in hibernation.” On a ridiculously cold NYC day like today, all I want to do is curl up in bed with a good book and a bowl of hot popcorn. Unfortunately, ’twas not meant to be–instead, I spent the entire day trudging around town searching for a great apartment (like finding a needle in a haystack) and starting my Christmas shopping (er, oops…?). The good news? Not only did I find two great potential apartments, I also found a most excellent holiday gift that happens to be suitable for just about everyone on your holiday list. On the shelves of my local bookstore, I discovered a little gem of a book called, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, by Simon Hopkinson. It’s a gorgeous little thing with thick, creamy paper, mouth-watering stories about food, and some seriously delicious-sounding recipes, including the aforementioned Roast Chicken. Perfect for both your kitchen shelves AND your nightstand. It’s hard to find a book that’s good for both.
In fact, I was so enamored by the book, that I ended up buying five copies for various people on my shopping list, including myself. Because, really, there’s nothing I feel like doing more in the middle of winter than staying in and cooking large, comforting, hearty meals. I mean, what more could one ask for? Especially if one finds themselves single (again!) for the holidays (but, really, I’m not bitter or anything), and shivering in a heat-averse apartment with one’s annual holiday overseas trip put on hold indefinitely. Right.
In fact, I think I’ll cook the namesake Roast Chicken recipe this very night. You know, Glamour magazine once featured a roast chicken recipe, touting it as Engagement Chicken, because a few girls on their staff had gotten engaged within remarkably short periods of time from when they had first made the roast chicken dish for their significant others. I think they said it had something to do with the wifely simplicity of the classic dish. Well, I’ve got news for you: their recipe may be good, but the one in the book is about ten times better (maybe it’s the addition of butter). Try it and let me know if it brings some relationship magic to your holiday table.
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 chicken (about 4 lbs.)
Salt and pepper
Several sprigs of fresh thyme or tarragon, or a mixture of the two
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Smear the butter with your hands all over the bird. Put the chicken in a roasting pan that will accommodate it with room to spare. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and the juice of the lemon. Put the herbs and garlic inside the bird’s cavity, together with the squeezed-out lemon halves; this will add a fragrant lemony flavor to the finished dish.
- Roast the chicken in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Baste, then turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and roast for a further 30 to 45 minutes with occasional basting. The bird should be golden-brown all over with a crisp skin and have buttery, lemony juices of a nut-brown color in the bottom of the pan.
- Turn off the oven, leaving the door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. This enables the flesh to relax gently, retaining the juices in the meat and ensuring easy, trouble-free carving and a moist bird.
- Carve the bird to suit yourself. I like to do it in the roasting pan. I see no point in making a gravy in that old-fashioned way with the roasting fat, flour, and vegetable cooking water. With this roasting method, what you end up with in the pan is an amalgamation of butter, lemon juice, and chicken juices. That’s all. It is a perfect homogenization of fats and liquids. All it needs is a light whisk or a stir, and you have the most wonderful “gravy” imaginable. If you wish to add extra flavor, you can scoop the garlic and herbs out of the chicken cavity, stir them into the gravy, and heat through; strain before serving.