Thursday, February 11, 2010

julia's roast chicken

So tonight's blog entry is coming to you sans photographs, because our dinner took so long to cook that I lost all hope of it being any good. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Last night, during "Snotorious" or whatever, Nathan came over to cook dinner. I had off courtesy of the storm so I decided to defrost the half a chicken Laura and I had gotten from the food co-op back in December.

Nathan is not exactly the world's biggest chicken fan, so he was pretty unhappy when I told him what I had in mind for our meal. However, I stood my ground and decided to roast it and serve with some plain white rice and food co-op cabbage. Nathan acquiesced, on the condition that we try to do SOMETHING to make a plain roast chicken more interesting. I had gotten an email from Cook's Illustrated with this recipe that prescribed coating the skin with baking powder so as to make it extra crispy, but required it sitting for 12 to 24 hours before cooking, so I went back to the drawing board. One basic search provided the obvious solution: Julia Child's famous roasted chicken. It didn't require any special ingredients or complicated techniques, and is one of those classic recipes that's been garnering rave reviews for decades. Also, Julia Child is my girl. I grew up watching her and the Frugal Gourmet (who turned out to be a perv, but that's beside the point).

The recipe basically calls for washing and drying the chicken in hot water, which I did, and rubbing it with salt, pepper and butter. Throw a halved lemon and onion inside the cavity, and throw it in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. After that, turn it down to 350 degrees, and baste. Julia's instructions included plenty of basting, but I didn't see much liquid to baste with. I definitely wanted to keep things nice and moist, so I just drizzled on some olive oil. After another 15 minutes you were supposed to toss in a chopped onion and some chopped carrots, but I was out of carrots so the onion had to suffice. I also added more olive oil.

At this point, it should have been done after another 15 to 30 minutes, but this chicken took FOREVER. I was starving and we tried the thermometer, and no dice. Ten minutes later, I was ravenous, but the thing was still legitimately raw when we cut it open. In desperation we cranked up the heat and let it sit, and finally the thing cooked all the way through. At this point I was cranky and Nathan's chicken skepticism was severely lowering my expectations. However, this was a fucking beautiful organic chicken, and I was cooking with Julia's instructions, and I should have known to keep faith.

Big surprise: Julia Child knew what she was doing when it came to roasting chickens. I know, I know, this is something she's universally renowned for. However, that doesn't mean that the results aren't extraordinary. Juicy, moist, bursting with flavor with amazing crispy onions.... This may have been the best chicken I had ever eaten. So amazing. I was thrilled with the results, and even Nathan concurred that this would be worth making again if we could get our hands on a nice chicken.

I just wish I had a photo of this deceptively simple masterpiece!


  1. 1. How can Nathan not like chicken?!

    2. I recently saw Julie and Julia during a Peace Corps training, and spent the rest of the week speaking like Julia Child. In related news, half of Peace Corps Morocco now thinks I'm delusional.

    3. This is so easy, I might have to try it for my next volunteer dinner party.

  2. Hmm. I have to change the settings so I know when I get a comment...

    yeah Nathan is fond proclaiming that "chicken is easily the worst meat"... but this dinner shut him up, haha! definitely give it a shot!

  3. It's still the worst meat overall, we just happened upon a freakishly good chicken. I can't think of another meat that is as consistently boring as chicken.