Friday, September 10, 2010

Keeping it Simple in a Complicated World: Roast Chicken Dinner

Today is September 10. Tomorrow is September 11. How great it would be if we could go back in time to when this date was not significant on a world scale. I was driving in my car this afternoon and one of my favorite talk radio guys was playing a series of clips from 9/11/01, when things were just starting to happen in New York and the reporters were reporting things live as they saw them and none of us knew what was really going on. Two women were reacting to having just seen the second plane hit the second tower, and one of them kept saying, "oh my goodness," and I just started to sob, today right there in my car. I almost had to pull over. Too much. Why can we not just have peace in the world? There are too many bad guys and it's just out of hand. Hug your families, people! It's a really bad world out there in a lot of ways. But at the same time, there is also a lot of good. And good will always win in the end...

So some friends from our church have a daughter who was born with a heart defect. She's in the hospital for the billionth time so we're taking turns providing dinner for their family. Anyway, tonight was supposed to be my night, but dinner got canceled because the family is all at the hospital tonight, so that left me with two chickens and lots of veggies to roast. I put one chicken in the freezer and the other one in the oven for my fam. Let me just say that on a day when I'm feeling kinda sad and grieving for the state of the world, there's something especially comforting about a wonderful, simple, back-to-basics home-cooked meal. I can't wait: in about an hour we get to sit down to a platter loaded with chicken & veggies, with some lovely crusty ciabatta bread on the side. It's a food of love, and it's gonna be nice to share it with my three favorite people on the planet.

Now if you have not roasted a chicken before, just google it. There are hundreds of recipes out there, but here is my basic technique: Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Clean and chop an assortment of root vegetables of your choice (mandatory on my list are onions, carrots and at least one whole head of garlic with the top sliced off). Put veg into a large roasting pan, preferably one you have a lid for (or you can use foil). Rinse a whole chicken (take the guts out of the cavity and throw them away - they're yucky), pat it dry with a paper towel, and place it on top of the veg. Drizzle everything with olive oil, add a couple of pats of butter for extra yum factor, then sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put cover on the pan, put it into the oven and set the timer for an hour & 20 minutes. Depending on the size of the chicken and the quantity of veggies, you may need to keep cooking for a while longer. Use an instant-read thermometer if you have one - interior temperature of the bird should be 160 degrees - or the juices should be clear and the leg socket should wiggle nice and loosely (and your veggies should be tender). Remove the lid from your pan for a bit so the chicken can crisp up. Remove from oven, let rest for 15 minutes or so if you can stand it, then call you family to the table, say a prayer, count your blessings, and eat your dinner. Nothing better. Pure comfort. And the bonus is that tomorrow you can make chicken salad with the left-overs!

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." —Ronald Reagan