Friday, February 6, 2015

Keeping it Simple

Sometimes it's fun to pull out your French Laundry cookbook and tackle one of those complex Thomas Keller recipes that have more steps than the assembly instructions of an IKEA cabinet.  But those recipes take planning, lots of ingredients that you likely don't have on hand and an entire Saturday to execute.  While this is a great way to learn new techniques, it's hard to pull off on a Wednesday night after you've been working all day.

Like so many things in life,  it's easy to over complicate even something as basic as a roasted chicken.    So this week I want to make this simple, satisfying  staple dish.  No need for brining, basting or browning on the stove top.   No special ingredients or techniques expect for trussing the bird, which is not too hard to do. Trussing allows the chicken to cook more evenly and stay moister.  But if you don't have cooking twine just tuck the wings and move on.
Simple Roasted Chicken
 If you have a little more time and ambition, consider making the Simplified Dirty Rice with Tarragon to serve with the chicken.  This is a nice way to use up the neck, gizzard and other stuff that comes with your chicken to  make a tasty, easy side dish.
Dirty Rice with Tarragon
This is a dish that you could prep in about 10-15 minutes and let the oven do the rest. Paired with a Green Salad, the Dirty Rice and a lovely glass of white or light red wine you have a simple and elegant dinner.

It's just going to be the bird, salt & pepper, butter & oil (I'll also show you about adding a little lemon zest and fresh thyme at the end)
All you need for a great roasted chicken
Rinse and dry with your chicken well using lots of paper towel.  I used a 5 1/2 pound chicken.  Obviously the bigger the bird the longer it will take to roast. 

I preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  

I season the cavity very well with a fair amount of salt and pepper then I stuff it with 1/4 cup (1/2 of a stick) of butter.  Now tuck the wings and truss the bird.  Don't worry if it's not perfect you just want to make the chicken as compact as possible.
Tie a long piece of kitchen twine around the tail and then cross over the legs

Bring the string around and pull until it's tight under breast.  Tie it off and cut of excess string
Now rub the chicken with oil and season very liberally with salt.   I "rain" the salt several inches above the chicken until their is a fair amount of salt on the skin.
Rub cooking oil over the chicken

"Rain" the salt on.  Season very liberally
I place the bird in a cast iron skillet  and then into the preheated oven.  Roast the chicken without opening the oven door.  Roast for about 20 minutes per pound.  I roasted this bird for  nearly 2 hours.  WARNING: There may be some popping and sputtering and it may get a bit smoky if your oven isn't super clean.  But don't worry you dinner is not burning.  Now for the rice.

I make the rice from the stuff in the chicken you have no idea what to do with and you usually end up throwing out.  Along with the neck, gizzard, heart and liver, I add onion, butter, garlic, bay leaves, long grain rice and tarragon and that's going to be my dirty rice.
Gizzard, Heart, Liver and Neck
I saute then innards all in a little oil until they're brown.  I remove the everything except the neck ( I leave that in the pan) and finely chop the gizzard, heart and liver.
Browned gizzard, heart and liver

Finely chopped innards
I add 1 diced onion to the pan with the neck and saute until tender then I add 1-2 T of butter let it melt and then I add garlic,  the chopped innards mixture, bay leaves and 1 cup of rice.   I saute that for 5 minutes more.
Add onion to the pan with the neck.
Minced garlic, butter, bay leaves and chopped innards meat mixture

Saute all for 5 minutes
Then I add 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt, stir it briefly and bring it back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until water evaporates.  Turn off heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.  I remove the neck and bay leaves and add 2 T of fresh chopped tarragon and squeeze of lemon and pinch more salt and pepper.
Add water to sauteed rice mixture
Simple Dirty Rice with Tarragon
When the chicken is done I leave it in the pan and add 1 T of chopped, fresh thyme, zest of 1/2 a lemon and add it the collected butter and juices in the pan.  Now I baste if over the bird and let it sit for 15 minutes ( I got this trick from Thomas Keller).

Roasted chicken with final baste of buttery pan drippings with thyme and lemon zest.
I serve it up with with the Dirty Rice and a salad of lightly dressed greens with sliced red onion.  I also drizzle some of the buttery pan drippings all over the meat and that's my sauce.
Roasted chicken white meat

Roasted chicken leg and thigh.
And if you have leftovers you can always make a great chicken sandwich or salad.

So let's keep it simple this weekend and use up what we have on hand.  If you don't have tarragon and thyme but do have rosemary use that instead in the rice and chicken.  Maybe you just have dried herbs and that's great too.  Have fun and let me know what simple masterpieces you create.  

Happy (simple) Cooking!