Santa Maria’s mother’s surgery went off without a hitch yesterday, though it took place later than anyone expected. Scheduled to start at noon, the operation didn’t get underway until about 3, which meant that Santa Maria and her father were at the hospital all day, and late into the night.
Santa Maria and I had plans to go out to dinner, but those were scratched. She and her father grabbed a quick bite near the hospital, and I ate what I would have served to him, had everything gone as planned—a simple dinner of pasta topped with Colavita (the only commercially-produced sauce I can find that doesn’t have added sugar) augmented with a bit of mozzarella. I made myself a side salad of fresh arugula, but I don’t know if her father would have wanted that.
I had these few basic ingredients (the sauce, the cheese, the greens) on hand, and it was tastier, more healthy, and faster than take-out or frozen food. Of course, only a myopic student could eat pasta every night, so spaghetti is not always the answer. And what I did with the rest of my night is testament to my belief that to eat well, all you need to do is to shop well, and to plan ahead.
In my refrigerator I happened to have a chicken and some baking potatoes. Before I went to bed last night, I took the chicken out, rinsed it, dried it, stuffed its cavity with a bit of tarragon (left over from the never-made Rose Revived Flounder), some salt, and a lemon. I washed and prepped the potatoes.
Years ago, I learned a trick from reading “D'Artagnan's Glorious Game Cookbook.” To make a roast chicken extra crispy and delicious, prep it the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least eight hours. The skin dries out and seals in the flavors, and the bird becomes remarkably crispy after cooking.
This method not only produces a fine dinner, it is practically designed for the working home cook. Do the prep work the night before, and then pop the bird in the oven when you get home. An hour later, you’ll have dinner, without any effort.
The full, dinner-party ready recipe from D’Artagnan follows—adapt as needed to your lifestyle. I, for example, have never made this fancy recipe; I opt to dry the bird out in the roasting pan itself, so it is ready to go right in the oven when I get home. My regular recipe works quite well for me, but if you want to be bit more ambitious, try this one. I’d love to hear how it turns out.
D'Artagnan's Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken
- 1 chicken, 3 lb.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 5 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 carrots, coarsely chipped
- 2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 c. white wine
- 3/4 c. chicken stock
- 2 tbs. chopped flat-leafed parsley
Season chicken cavity with salt and pepper, add half of the garlic and all the rosemary, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Leave squeezed lemon half inside cavity. Place chicken on a cake rack over a plate and leave uncovered in refrigerator overnight, or far at least 8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Put 1 tbs. butter in the bottom of shallow roasting pan just large enough to hold the bird. Add carrots, celery, onion, and remaining garlic. Brush remaining butter over chicken and place bird, breast up, on the vegetables, and continue roasting until chicken is done. After about an hour, pour the wine and stock over the vegetables.
Turn off oven, transfer chicken to a platter, and keep warm in oven while finishing sauce. Scrape vegetables and pan drippings into a food processor, or blender and puree until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in parsley.
Cut chicken into serving pieces and put on plate. Spoon on a small amount of sauce and pass remainder at table.
*Recipe courtesy of D'Artagnan*