I don’t host dinners very often, but when I do (as the meme would say) I like to make it a really special event. It’s a chance to try my hand at a special recipe or two, and to share my love through a delicious meal. (It’s also a good excuse to finally get around to cleaning our little apartment which we still aren’t fully settled into half a year later…)
This week we had my mother-in-law over for the first time at our new apartment. It usually works best for us to eat out, or to meet at her place, but this time, I had the privilege of hosting her at my own home. It was a perfect opportunity to check off one of my cooking bucket list items: making a whole roast chicken.
Mama-in-Law had treated us to a whole chicken from Whole Foods, so this bird got to be the featured event for our dinner. I turned to The Joy of Cooking pages 579-580 for my inspiration.
Joy provides two methods of cooking a roasted chicken. The first is the simple, traditional way– season it with salt and pop it in the oven. I decided to try the second method: Turned Roasted Chicken on page 580. This method requires a little more attention with the end result of the breast meat and thigh meat being cooked at just the right amount at the same time, so neither ends up overcooked and dry. This is done by cooking it for twenty-five or so minutes first on one side, then on the other, and then breast-side up. The nice thing about the recipe is that once it’s in the oven, there’s time to work on side dishes while it roasts.
Earlier in the day, I had started the vegetable side by making croutons from my sourdough loaf I had made a couple days before. (I was going for a fully home-cooked meal!) My inspiration this time was on page 210: Reduced-Fat Caesar Salad. Based on the ingredients I had as well as some of my own notions of how I wanted the salad to be, I altered the recipe. I un-reduced the fat a little by adding more olive oil spray than the recipe called for (5 spritzes is hardly enough, right?) I made the dressing mostly as recommended, except I didn’t have any fresh parsley or fresh thyme, so I put in a small amount of dried herbs instead. I also didn’t have anchovy fillets, but the dressing turned out just fine without them. Finally, having no romaine lettuce and not wanting to go to the store on my day off, I made the Caesar nontraditional by using mixed greens instead. I prefer mixed greens to romaine anyway.
Back to the chicken: once it was done roasting, I tried my hand at the Poultry Pan Sauce or Gravy on page 579. This was probably the least successful part of the meal, particularly because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and didn’t “mix to a smooth paste” the butter and flour before putting it in the sauce. Instead, I added both directly and separately, which resulted in them clumping up in the gravy. They still thickened it a little, but we (because Julian helped me) ended up having to strain out the clumps. It still tasted good though, so I can’t complain too much.
Carving the chicken was challenging, because I’ve never watched someone do it so I had to just kind of guess. Mama-in-Law helped me though, and we ended up with a couple whole pieces carved out (though a fair share of shredded bits too.)
Finally, all the prep was done (I should mention that there was one element of the meal that wasn’t from scratch, and that was mashed potatoes, straight from a Bob’s Red Mill bag — thanks, Bob!) We finally settled down for my first homemade roast chicken meal. The result was so very satisfying. All the meat was perfectly juicy and tender and cooked just the right amount. The croutons were addictive and the Caesar salad was actually worth getting seconds of (salads don’t always have that same pull for me!) The gravy was perfect over the chicken and mashed potatoes, and a glass of white wine pulled everything together perfectly. And then we topped off the meal with Nigella’s walnut and ginger carrot cake, the perfect end to a wonderful and memorable meal.
It was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve made and I’m really very proud of it. I owe so much thanks to Julian for helping me get everything on the table, to Mama-in-Law for treating us to the chicken and for being so loving and supportive– you two are my greatest cheerleaders. ❤
I’m also very excited because now that I’ve roasted a chicken, I feel like I can do it again. Now my next bucket list item to check off is cooking a whole fish with the eyeballs still in it (if I can stick my hand up a chicken’s butt, I should be cook a whole fish that’s looking up at me the whole time, right?)