Early this morning, I was abruptly woken. My son’s plaintive voice cutting through the heavy silence of 5:00am – “momma, I have to pee.” Meeting him in the bathroom, which is directly above our kitchen, I leaned against the door frame and thought – ‘damn, the house smells good.’
The night before, I had filled our home with aroma of autumn. On the eve of the autumnal equinox, I roasted a chicken, made a potato gratin and cooked a big pot of stock. Now, every inch of the house oozes with the promise of pumpkins, falling leaves and slow cooking.
Fall is my very favorite season and this week, the year’s best in my view. The raspberries are at their finest, sweet and plump, and the hard skinned squashes have arrived at our markets. Seemingly overnight, the leaves have begun to change their hue. And soon it will be cold. But we have to enjoy the cool, crisp days of September while we can, preserving what we will before the vines wither and die. While I’ll miss tomatoes, summer squash and corn, I crave the return to the hearth that autumn expects with its soups, stews and braises.
So let’s say a fond farewell to summer as we pull out our sweaters from the depths of our drawers and watch the leaves fall. There’s an Emily Dickinson quote that I love, but cannot find. that captures the yin and yang of life and loss, scarcity and abundance. So instead, I’ll end with a similar thought:
“There is a vast hydrological cycle with its sequence of abundance and scarcity, its expression of the tragic as well as the delightful moments of temporal existence.” Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry.
But back to my chicken.
Secrets for a well-roasted chicken:
1. Slather with butter, it browns and crisps the skin.
2. Salt more than you think is necessary. It aids in the crisping of the skin and brings out the flavor.
3. Trussing is easy – simply take a 10-inch piece of twine. Place the midway point of the twine under the tail of the chicken. Curl it around the leg bones by twisting it around the side of the bone closest to the breast. Wrap it around each leg 360° degrees and pull them close to the body. Cross the breasts, bring the twine next to the sides of the body and tie at the top. Tuck the wings under the twine as best as possible.
4. Shift the position of the chicken approximately every 15 minutes to ensure even browning. This does violate my ordinary rule of thumb, which is to open the oven as little as possible while baking or roasting but it does evenly brown the bird in a home oven.
5. I follow Nigella Lawson’s formula for time, which hasn’t failed me yet. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes a pound plus 10 minutes.
1 3-4 pound chicken, preferably organic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
kosher or coarse sea salt and pepper to taste
If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 375º F; otherwise, preheat the oven to 425° F. Halve the lemon and put it in the chicken’s cavity. Truss the chicken according the instructions above and put it in a small roasting pan. Combine the butter and paprika and massage the chicken with it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 55-70 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165° F. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes tented with aluminum foil. Carve and serve.
You can always add garlic cloves, shallots or onions to the pan to serve the chicken. Peel them and add toss them alongside the chicken to roast with it.
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chicken stock, canned is fine, homemade is better, or water
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from roasting pan. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat. Add flour and cook until lightly colored about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken stock or water and white wine, simmer until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
P.S. I can’t tell you with authority where the title quote comes from. It was the update of a Facebook friend, also in quotes. The only source I found after searching it on the google was The Product Blog written by Eric Bergman.