Friday, October 29, 2010

First you get a chicken...

Admit it, there's nothing better than a roast chicken. As my bro Paul said to me yesterday, it's on par with doing laundry as far as simple satisfactions go. Let me explain: you get your little chicken load ready, you fire up the oven, pop it in, and in one scant hour, PRESTO, you've got delicious chicken meat for days.

So, yesterday I believe I made the best roast chicken of my life. It's perfectly moist, with a crisp, salty browned skin, and a delectably sweet aroma due to the bed of sweet Vidalia onions I cooked it over. And I can't stress enough the role that tons of garlic and herbs plays in producing the most perfect of chickens. I crammed as much thyme and peeled garlic cloves in there as I possibly could (pardon me, dear chicken). And then I trussed the legs together with kitchen twine so that nary a drop of delicious chicken juice could escape from that herbaceous cavity! Mwa-ha-ha!

Here's how it's done, people:

Best Roast Chicken
(makes 4-6 servings)

One 3- to 4- pound organic chicken
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into chunks
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup dry sherry

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry, inside and out, so as not to risk steaming it.
2. Salt and pepper the cavity, then stuff it with herb and garlic. Truss the chicken by tying the ends of the drumsticks together over the main cavity, close to the breasts (see photo). This helps keep the breasts from drying out and also allows the bird to cook more evenly.
3. Next, give the bird a fine, even coating of salt. Not just a sprinkle or a pinch, but a visible crust. Season with pepper and brush all over with the olive oil.
4. Put the chicken in a roasting pan or oven-proof saute pan and surround it with the onions and lemon. Place in the center of the preheated oven. Roast it for 50 to 60 minutes, without opening the oven to baste or steal a peek, until a thermometer inserting into the thigh reads 160 degrees F and the juice runs clear.
5. Remove it from the oven and baste it with the rendered juices. Let it rest 15 minutes before carving and serving.
6. While the chicken rests, strain the pan juices, reserving the onions, and skim off the fat. Put into a small saucepan with the sherry, and heat over medium-high until the sauce reduces somewhat, about 5 minutes. Pour over the bird and serve with the reserved onions.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn breezes, rooftop farms, pickled peppers

Today Kat and I paid a visit to Roberta's in Bushwick, a wonderful spot where you can chomp down on a variety of delicious, perfectly charred pizzas such as the Beastmaster, a genius invention topped with tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, Berkshire pork sausage, red onion, capers, and jalapenos. Like, whoa.

It's also a place to explore the great urban outdoors, where basil grows in bathtubs and old shipping containers house local radio stations. Outside the Roberta's complex, every Sunday (just my luck!), Brooklyn Grange -- a 1-acre rooftop farm launched in Queens in collaboration with Roberta's -- sells their goods, and how good they are! Today I bought 5 hot Hungarian peppers and brought them home for the pickling treatment. Stuffed into a recycled jar with cumin, thyme, garlic, black peppercorns, and of course the requisite sugar/salt/water solution, these are sure to be spicy and delicious little sandwich toppers for the winter months to come.

The below recipe can be used on all sorts of veggies, not just peppers, and I encourage you to play around with different spices and herbs - cause it's pretty hard to make a bad pickle!

Pickled Peppers
(fills one pint jar)

2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
5 black peppercorns
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 sprigs thyme
5 small Hungarian peppers, destemmed and sliced

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and garlic until it comes to a boil. Shut off the heat and leave covered until ready to use.

2. Thoroughly wash a pint-size glass jar and fill with the cumin, thyme and pepper slices. Pack in tightly, leaving a bit of room at the top of the jar.

3. Pour the pickling solution, with all the solids, into the jar, filling to the very top. Screw on lid tightly and leave on the counter until cooled to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator up to two weeks.