Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Best Thing in My Kitchen

The best thing in my kitchen at the moment is a chicken roasting pan that looks something like this. I think my mother bought it for me about 6 years ago for about 8 bucks at Wal-Mart (shudder that, I know). I left it alone and unused in my oven-drawer for years until I decided it might be a good idea to use it, and once I did, I actually had to grieve all of the chickens I could have roasted if only I had realized what an incredible device this little pan actually is. It's a simple thing. In my opinion, the best things that come out of the kitchen are simple things that give us a little wholesome comfort at the end of the day. I always feel grateful for old-fashioned culinary pleasures like a beautifully roasted chicken, a simple spinach salad, grainy pears, butternut squash soup, baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and whole-wheat bread with butter and honey. In this world of fast and out-of-the-bag food, homemade food reminds us that we're human. We're not machines that can survive on pre-packaged food and synthetic sugar. We're a rather fragile sort of creature that needs sunshine, clean sheets, warm suppers, fresh vegetables and good coffee to thrive. God didn't intend for us to be so strong and self-sufficient. That's why we aren't.

When I roast a chicken, I don't spend a lot of time trussing it, or covering the breasts with buttered aluminum foil like some culinarians recommend. I usually just peel and wash a carrot and a few ribs of celery and put them in the cavity with some garlic I've whacked with the flat edge of my favorite knife (another wonderful thing in my kitchen) and some fresh rosemary from the pot on my front porch. (Another aside, here in balmy Alabama, fresh rosemary will thrive outside in a pot all winter. It gets a little woody, but it's still flavorful.) I always sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on the outside of the bird and drizzle it with olive oil. I roast it at about 350 degrees until it starts to smell like heaven and Corduroy Dog starts to drool on the floor (for about an hour). (Real chefs say to roast it at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, but I don't think that gives the veggies and herbs you've put inside the chicken time to release their flavor.) Do what you will with the pan-juices. They're lovely.

While I'm at it with all of this sharing what I like to eat and all, I might as well tell you how to make the perfect (again, in my opinion) Mint Julep. First, you've got to have grown your own traditional spearmint. It's the mintiest mint and down here, it's marketed as being "especially good for mint julep." Cut a handful. Take a handful or two of ice and smash it with your husband's hammer in a clean cotton towel. (When he says "I'm not sure that's good for the kitchen counter," just smile sweetly and hammer on.) Put about a half-inch of sugar (I know.) in the bottom of a 10-ounce glass and mash the mint right into it with the back of a spoon. (Oh, it smells like heaven.) Fill the glass with ice and pour in the bourbon to the top. (Even though my husband is from the patch of Tennessee just to the left of Jack Daniel's Country and Just to the Right of George Dickel's promised land, I'm still on speaking terms with Jim Beam. You can even use Southern Comfort if you're not a purist. Nothing isn't made better with a few jiggers of So. Co., that's the truth.) Drink it on the porch barefoot like a redneck. It's okay. Yum.

Now, it's your turn. Whoever you are, if you know me or not, respond to this post with the thing you most like to eat.


kristen said...

Ooooh, that roasted chicken sounds delicious. I am lazy and just throw my chickens in the crockpot but I am going to try properly roasting the next one.

I want a mint julep right now. MMMmmm. I have a sore throat and I believe it would be cured by a julep or three.

I have no idea what my favorite food to cook or eat is, but lately, I've been getting the most pleasure out of making homemade pizza and wings (okay, the wings are frozen and the sauce is not from scratch...) Probably because it is march, and it is time for wings and pizza.

rebekka said...

My favorite thing to do is bring a lobster home from the seafood market and plunge it in a big stockpot of boiling water. Does that make me a sadist? I don't know. Anyway, we just tear into it from one big platter and dip the pieces in melted butter and wash it down with cheap champagne....er, sparkling wine. And THAT is my favorite thing to eat.

And, P.S. you are so, so, so, so, SO cool for this post. Just when I am sure you couldn't POSSIBLY get any cooler, you sure do. In my mind, you're like the chicken queen or something, with your chicken potrack and your frozen stock in ice cube trays. I wish I could properly cook one.



susan said...

Kristen, NO MORE CROCKPOT chicken. Roasting one is just as easy if not easier and the crockpot turns that that golden crispy skin to bleck. (I can only think of one thing better.) OH! Sometimes the pleasures of this temporal earth are TOO MUCH FOR ME TO BEAR!!I won't be able to make it in Heaven for more than a minute without a total sensory overload meltdown.

Rebekka, you are plumping my ego and leading me to sin. :-) Cooking lobster does not make you a sadist, it makes you appreciative of what God gave you. (I often pray, "God, if you didn't mean for me to eat this, why is it SO DELICIOUS in every way?" I've never eaten lobster like that. This summer,you must come swimming in Tullahoma and make me a lobster. And I'll make for you: A chicken. Boring. You can do it too, silly! Just DO it. A four-dollar supper for a king.


Christian said...

Do you put the top on it while it roasts?

Leftover roasted chicken carcasses (that sounds awful!) are great for making homemade chicken stock. It's very easy. Plop it in a pot along with some chunks of onion, celery, carrots, and garlic, and a handfull of kosher salt. Cover with water and let simmer for one hour. Remove and discard the solids and refrigerate the juice. Skim off the solidified fat and you've got broth that's a lot better than the canned stuff.

susan said...

CPT, that's actually really interesting. I've made broth that way with a WHOLE chicken, but it kind of kills the meat. I am more than a little thrilled to know that you can do it with just the bones and the skin and the fat.

This is excellent news to me.

I was so glad to see that you are still Christian. (Although, I don't know who else you would have become.)


susan said...

Oh, and yes, I do put the top on while it roasts and it still goes all crispy on the top.