Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Waiting, and Preparing for the Weekend

So tomorrow evening is New Year's Eve. Part of the program I'm on emphasizes preparation, both mental and physical. NYE is going to be a feast of junk food and booze; the booze is easy enough to avoid - I'm driving, so I will do my evening champagne toast and stay sober the rest of the night. I already know there will be DUI checkpoints all over Anaheim, and I don't want to risk anything. Its the food I need to prepare for. Chips and salsa - oh, that's my weakness. I'll need someone to follow me with a flyswatter to keep my hand from reaching into the bowl too many times.

I also have a Very Important Person flying in to see me tomorrow. This VIP can eat and drink whatever he wants tomorrow as far as I am concerned - I am just happy to see him. But this person will be hungry tomorrow, and doesn't get much home cooking where he lives. One of the things I love doing for him is cooking him a healthy, delicious, hearty home-cooked meal. So far I've done shrimp scampi, homemade mac-n-cheese, beef stew, and roasted acorn squash - and that was just in his kitchen.

I think for tomorrow I'm going to keep it simple, and have a delicious roasted chicken waiting for him when he walks in the door. Its excellent on its own, or pulled off the bone and slapped into a sandwich. And it makes the whole house smell...well, like home.


1 Whole "fryer" chicken, rinsed and giblets* removed
1 lemon
2 tablespoons of butter, sliced to 1 tablespoon each
4 garlic cloves (more if you're like me and cannot get enough)
Kosher salt
Thyme (fresh if you have it, but dry will do)
Sliced vegetables such as zucchini, onions, red bell peppers (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. Rinse the whole chicken and pat dry.

Take a fork and stab the lemon all over; go ahead, take out your stress. Imagine its a particularly irksome coworker or the guy who knocked into you on the sidewalk. Shove the stabbed lemon up inside the cavity of the chicken. Then, put the garlic cloves inside the chicken cavity as well. If everything keeps sliding out, use a toothpick or two to pin the cavity closed.

Next, take the two tablespoon-sized pats of butter, and slip them under the skin over the breasts of the chicken, one over each breast. This will help keep the leaner breast meat moist.

Season the chicken by first sprinkling the breast side with the salt, pepper and thyme. Then, place the chicken breast-side down on the baking tray/roasting pan, and season the other side. Don't be afraid to move and pat the spices between the wings, legs, and sides of the bird.

Place the chicken breast-side down in the oven, and roast slowly for at least one hour, or until cooked all the way through. To test for doneness, use a meat thermometer and take an internal reading - should be at least 165 degrees. Or, if you don't have a thermometer, slice a knife through a thick part of the chicken meat. If the juices run clear, its done - if they are even the slightest bit pink, the chicken needs more time.

If you opt to cook the vegetables, give them a quick coat of cooking spray and place them on the baking pan when you have approximately 30 minutes left of chicken-cooking time.

Check on the chicken often, as its just a few minutes difference between "juicy and delicious" and "dry chicken-salad fodder". The butter helps keep the breasts tender, as does cooking it breast-side down. If you like crispy golden skin, crank the heat up for the last few minutes or so until the skin gets crackly-brown.

I haven't had a person turn down this chicken yet. I even did a modified version of it for Christmas dinner, and it was gone in a flash. This is a really basic roast chicken recipe - you can make your own modifications. Stuff it with an orange, or with stuffing and sausages. Try rosemary instead of thyme, or oregano and basil for an Italian flair. Its up to you.

I cannot wait for my VIP to get here. Now I am off to the store to pick up a chicken so I can greet him with hugs, kisses, and the coziness of a home-cooked meal.

*If you have a dog, feel free to give them the giblets right out of the chicken. Yes, its raw, but how else would a wild dog eat their food? Snowy loves her chicken hearts and kidneys so much, she will sit at my feet and wait for them to magically drop down to her when I prepare a chicken for dinner.

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