Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A Simple Roast Chicken

Growing up, I was far more baker than cook. I enjoyed the precision of baking, the intellectual understanding of chemical interactions between leaveners or gluten, the elegance of the final product when I turned out a perfect souffle or decorated cake. And of course, the smells--warm chocolate, or caramelizing brown sugar, or soft floral vanilla custard.

At first, when I got into CR/Paleo, I would still bake for my friends and family because they had come to expect that from me. My mother loves to tell people how she knew I was having a bad day if she came home and there were fresh brownies on the kitchen counter. I stress baked through undergrad, although by then I had learned to give at least some of my output away rather than stress eat it too ;)

But gradually I came to realize I didn't want to bake that stuff for the people I love. If they choose to seek it out on their own, that's their choice. But they didn't need additional temptation from me. As I ramped down my baking, I ramped up my cooking to fill the void.

Cooking beyond a basic level had always intimidated me. Especially raw meat. Not only was it a bacteria fest, it was slippery and slimey and generally unattractive. Unfortunately, I had no choice-after all, meat is a BIG component of the Paleo way of eating and also a good way of getting many essential nutrients. Not only that, but I couldn't afford to buy prepared foods all the time, nor did I want to because lord knows what it would be prepared with.

So, I took baby steps: boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken. Boneless pork chops. Fillets of sole. Nice, easy cuts to learn with. As I grew more comfortable with my abilities, I began to realize how expensive some of these convenience cuts are. Now, part of the reason they were expensive is because I buy antibiotic free/grass fed/organic. But we all know convenience cuts are more expensive no matter what. And since I have already admitted my cheapness, it should come as no surprise that between my fear of more challenging pieces of meat and my wallet, the wallet won.

Which leads me to the title of my post. Even after I had tackled whole center loin pork roasts, brisket, and whole fish, the roasted chicken stood out as the single cooking goal I had set for myself that I was afraid to attain. Perhaps it was because I have read so many paens to the 'perfect' roast chicken in foodie literature. Or because I have read so many horror stories about people having to choke down overcooked bird breast. Whatever the case, the first time I approached a whole chicken on my own, it was with trepidation.

And in the end, there was no need. All you need for a delicious roast chicken is highish heat and a nice dry bird. I make this recipe http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/My-Favorite-Simple-Roast-Chicken-231348 exactly as is. And it is perfect every time.

It is also economical. One 4 pound bird can feed both me and the SO for two dinners and a lunch for $6. And you can pour off the schmaltz from the pan to use for cooking later and boil the carcass for stock. But all of that would mean nothing if it wasn't delicious. And there's nothing like a nice piece of cold leftover chicken as a snack any time :)


Marc said...

What a nice post.
Good for you!!!


carla said...

interesting lines about the baking and the people seeking it on their own if they want.

hmmmm, lottsa food for paleo though for this mama :)


Dommi said...

Another great post... I just love how you described your epiphany with baking goods. My own family, with a few exceptions, is largely not health conscious at all. Fortunately, they're all very hungry! I've some to a similar conclusion: although I used to bake for my family and friends and simply abstain from them myself, I've since decided that it's just something I don't want to be a part of. Now, I experiment with healthier dishes and keep them on the counter and in the refrigerator to sample at their own will... often times they end up very pleasantly surprised at how good wholesome food can taste. Maybe this is something you'd be willing to give a try? Especially now that you've conquered your fear of "real" cooking. (Way to go!!) I just thought you might find the suggestion helpful... I've really always had surprisingly good results with this.

Keep up the great work in the kitchen! Sounds like you're having fun :]

Cave Cooking said...

Dommi-great idea. One I will implement. Thank you.