Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday chicken

Well, the chicken looks beautiful.

I love roasting chickens on Sunday afternoons. I love the lazy luxury of making something that takes time, nothing complicated or stressful, but something that needs to cook slowly while I nap or read or watch figure skating on Sunday afternoon TV. And even though it seems preposterous to roast an entire chicken for one person, it's actually very efficient. Roast chicken for lunch, shredded chicken for salad, a nice carcass to save for later stock-making. Almost makes me feel like a Native American buffalo hunter.

I normally make Marcella Hazan's "Roast Chicken with Two Lemons," combined with the Zuni Cafe pre-salting method, and it's the easiest, juiciest, loveliest chicken in the world. But tonight, I thought I would try Paula Wolfert's roast chicken with Moroccan flavors, what she calls "Expatriate Chicken." It's an odd recipe. You prep the chicken by stuffing the cavity with a mixture of chopped garlic, preserved lemon pulp, olive oil, ground ginger, and a pinch of cayenne early in the day. The odd part begins with the cooking. The chicken gets started in a cold oven that gets cranked up to 550 degrees while boiling water is poured into the roasting pan with grated onion, saffron, a cinnamon stick, and a little bit of sugar. After 45 minutes, the oven gets turned down to 275, and you're supposed to keep turning the bird to get it brown on all sides, 20 minutes one side, 20 minutes on the other, and 10 minutes on the back. At the end, you take the bird out and let it rest, add green olives and cilantro to the pan, and then let the pan juices reduce further in the oven.

I would give more exact instructions, but it wasn't very good. The inner seasoning didn't seem to have done much for the outer bird. The breast was a little too dry, and there just wasn't much flavor. The pan juices were deliciously fatty, but the olives and cilantro didn't really meld into a larger, more complex flavor. Not bad, just disappointing. And to top it all of, I realized that the Moroccan flavors wouldn't really make for a very stock-able carcass.

So it goes.

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