“As we have a right to believe eternity will be one uninterrupted Easter Sunday, so every Sunday throughout the year helps the Christian people to prepare for that great Sunday to come. It is a day of expectation, a weekly reminder that here is only the beginning of true happiness.”
-Maria Von Trapp
These days have been so hot. So very hot. We’re deep into a southeast Texas summer and I’ve reached the point–the unbearably sweat-soaked point–where I begin to make numerous proclamations about wanting to flee to some cool, blue mountains and never come back.
I dread getting out of the apartment to run to the grocery store because getting into the car is a foretaste of hell and the drive is just short enough for the air conditioning not to work itself up to anything resembling relief.
But last weekend, inspired by the desire to savor slower Sundays, I got the idea in my head that we needed a roast chicken. Roast chicken is something my stara mama made on Sundays. (Though she actually did live amidst cool, blue mountains and sourced her chickens locally from her chicken pen.) So, since it is my one true hope to become like her, out into the thick hot breath of summer I went to get my chicken.
I prepped it before 5pm Mass and then popped it in the oven after we came home. Even though it was 9 by the time we actually got around to eating (n.b. get thee out of bed on time to make morning Mass) and the apartment was feeling rather swampy from cranking up the oven for over an hour, the meal was glorious. There are few things more delicious than luxuriously crispy chicken skin and potatoes swimming in the drippings. Simple, juicy, homespun perfection and indeed only the beginning of true happiness.
Recipe for Roast Chicken (adapted from both Thomas Keller and Ina Garten)
One 3-5lb whole chicken
Fresh ground black pepper
4-5 peeled cloves of garlic
Softened unsalted butter
5-6 halved medium yellow potatoes
Preheat oven to 450F. Rinse the chicken, remove and throw out giblets, and trim excess fat. Pat the chicken down inside and out with a paper towel. (Removing excess moisture results in a crispier chicken).
Salt and pepper the inside and out liberally. Brush a pat of butter on the inside and then stuff it with the cloves of garlic and thyme. Slightly brush the outside of the chicken with butter. (Thomas Keller famously does not butter his chicken at all because of the moisture, but I like the taste.)
Tuck the wings behind the chicken and tie the legs together (or if you’re like me and don’t keep kitchen string handy, watch this).
Place your chicken in a buttered baking dish and surround with the potatoes. (A roasting pan is ideal, but anything will do in a pinch–see tart dish in picture above). Onions, carrots, parsnips are all ideal and can be added too and sweet potatoes can be substituted easily if you’re making this in the fall.
Brush your potatoes with butter and give them a few shakes of salt and pepper. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the size of your chicken.
P.S. reserve those chicken bones for broth! And don’t let that chicken juice go to waste! Mix it butter and you’ll have chicken stock compound butter to amp up your dishes all week long.
White Wine Bechamel Sauce
This is a really lovely sauce for both the chicken and potatoes.
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup white wine
Heat milk in microwave for 30 seconds or over stovetop until warm to touch. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and continue to stir until the mixture becomes lightly golden. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Once the mixture is boiling, add white wine and stir until smooth. Season with pepper. (I thought the chicken was salty enough to skip salt in the sauce.)
Green Salad with Homemade Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one small lemon
2 tsp dijon
Butter, red leaf, or romaine lettuce
Whisk ingredients together. Adjust to taste (Psst…I never actually measure these things out–just adjust from start to finish). Toss in a large bowl with rinsed lettuce leaves. Less is more when it comes to dressing so you may end up with more dressing than necessary. Tossing well and making sure all the leaves are lightly coated is what you want.