When I was in high school our class read “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek essay (by Charles Lamb) about a young boy in ancient China who burned his house down, along with some baby piglets. When the fire was over he touched the charred animals and some of the crispy cracklings came off on his fingers, which he licked, and the fame of barbecued pork was assured.
I think we had to read this because it had dozens of fancy words that were sure to show up on our SATs.
I recently read the essay again. I no longer have the SATs to worry about of course so I could actually concentrate on what Lamb said. And that got me to thinking that if I were writing it I would have chosen a different food.
Roast Chicken instead of roast pig.
There is no finer dinner than roast chicken. It’s festive without being fussy, visually beautiful, easy to prepare and not too expensive. It’s comfort food and also company food. The aroma of a roasting chicken in the oven is welcoming, especially on a cold night after we change to Standard Time and it gets dark early.
Ask a chef, even the most famous of them, to choose a favorite dinner and you might be surprised to learn how many would choose roast chicken.
All of what Lamb says about pig applies to chicken. I’ll give you one example. He describes the pig’s “exterior tegument … crisp, tawny, well-watched … the very teeth are invited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance ….”
In other words, the golden brown skin has a terrific texture and tastes really delicious!
Anyway, you’re likely to find a lovely chicken ready for roasting any old time you’re at the supermarket. And any old time you’re at a loss as to what to cook for dinner for your family or even for company, you should definitely think about roasting a chicken.
Is there a better dinner? I don’t think so.
Here’s an easy recipe.
Plain Old Roasted Chicken
1 roasting chicken, about 4-6 pounds
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt, garlic powder, paprika and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice, chicken stock or white wine
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the carrots and cut them into thick strips. Place them in a roasting pan and pour in some of the olive oil. Toss the carrots to coat them with the olive oil. Rinse and dry the chicken; remove pinfeathers; remove the giblets. Rub the chicken with some of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, paprika and pepper. Place a rack over the carrots in the roasting pan and place the chicken breast side down on the rack. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Roast another 15 minutes. Pour the juice (or stock, wine) over the chicken and roast another 15 minutes. Turn chicken breast side up. Continue to roast, basting occasionally, for another 45-60 minutes or until fully cooked (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees). Remove the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the carrots and pan juices. Makes 6 servings