About this time of year, when the temperatures start cooling down and I hear the leaves from our ash trees crunching underfoot, I start thinking about turning on the oven and making some of those favorite dishes that have been left off our tables all summer. What with all the barbecuing of large hunks of meat, the tomatoes (and tomatoes and tomatoes) piling up in the kitchen and the unbelievably fabulous fruit at the farmers markets, what else could we do but surf the avalanche?
So now that things have calmed down a bit, I bought a large roasting chicken at the store. I always ask for the biggest one, the better to have leftovers for other delicious dishes like enchiladas or chicken pot pie. I think the largest I've roasted was over nine pounds, more like a small turkey, really. But still not larger than Chester (right), our gorgeous hunk of 13-lb. marmalade cat. (Still unroasted.)
Anyway, about that chicken. I use James Beard's method, which calls for roasting the bird on a bed of vegetables, turning it every once in awhile to get a good infusion of aromatics of whatever kind. As usual, I mess around with the recipe, covering it with bacon during roasting (afterwards you can crumble the bacon over the mashed potatoes and gravy or use it in a salad), or stuffing the cavity with a half lemon and a bunch of fresh herbs like tarragon or thyme. And doggone if it doesn't turn out beautifully every time! (That's how it gets to be a favorite, you know.)
Jimmy's Roast Chicken Kinda
loosely adapted from James Beard's American Cooking
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, halved and chopped
2 ribs celery, halved and chopped
1/2 c. white wine or dry vermouth
1 roasting chicken
Handful of fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme or tarragon)
4-5 slices bacon, optional
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pour 2 Tbsp. oil into a frying pan and saute onions, carrots and celery (or whatever vegetables you might have) till slightly tender but not fully cooked. Put in 9" by 12" pyrex casserole dish (or your favorite Le Creuset roaster). Pour wine over vegetables.
Rub chicken with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, throw 1 tsp. or so salt and the lemon and herbs into the cavity and place the chicken on its side on top of the vegetables. If using bacon, drape strips crosswise over the chicken. Place in oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken on its other side (relaying bacon, if using it, on top) and roast for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken so it is breast-side up (again draping bacon), baste with pan juices and sprinkle with salt. Roast another 15 minutes, remove and baste, then roast a final 20 minutes or, for our tastes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees on the inside of the lower thigh. Remove from oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes. We cut it into pieces, but the breasts we remove whole and slice crosswise.