Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dinner For Two

"You don't know how to cook a chicken?" 
Marty to Janie, Isn't It Romantic, by Wendy Wasserstein

The Best Chicken You’ll Ever Have Ever.  Ever 

This is the actual picture of the actual meal that I made in this post.  I'm getting better about photographing food.  Like with most things, it's all about the light. 
I know I’ve been posting about food lately.  I think it’s easier because every day I basically make something that I want to share with the world.  It’s also easier writing because it doesn’t require me to reveal myself.  Do with that what you will.  Or Twelfth Night.   Which is the day I’ve starting writing this post, coincidentally, although who knows when it’ll actually go up. 

All of this is my way of saying – rest assured, I’ll write about personal gay marriage stuff soon.  But now I’m writing about fowl.  

I had this meal for Rafael the day after he returned from his holiday trip to Mexico.  I didn’t go with him because the ticket was over a grand and also because I think gay couples split for the holidays more than straight couples do.  He got back on the 3rd, and then on the 4th had to head out to Passaic so that he could wake up early and check a shipment coming in.  If it sounds like I don’t really know what I’m writing about, it’s because I don’t.

Exemplary Fiancé

When he came back, I thought it would be nice to greet him some food because when I’ve been out all day, I cherish the idea of staying in for dinner.  I know I’m making myself sound like a simply exemplary fiancé.  As I’m sure none of you need persuading, being my other is in many ways not easy, but the point of this blog isn’t to reveal my various short-comings to you: it’s to make my life sound fabulous so that you envy it.  In the food department, I imagine I’m a joy to be with.

Here’s the simple dinner for two I whipped up tonight:

Roasted Salt Chicken
Blanched Apple Cider Kale (2 bunches)
Savory Sweet Potatoes (4)

Rather than give each individual recipe, I’m trying a new approach where I talk you through the process of doing it all together.  Tell me if you like it or if it’s annoying.

I started three days ago, when I went to my butcher and bought the fowl.  I go to a great, old-school butcher right behind Port Authority – Esposito’s And Sons.  I’ve been going there for over ten years, and I have never purchased a bad piece of meat there.  They only had chickens on the larger side (4.5 lbs or so).  I hadn’t made this recipe with a chicken that large before – usually I like them in the 3.5 or 4lb range, but it turned out great.

Take the chicken, then pour salt all over it.  I use kosher salt, but you can use that fine table salt, too.  Rotate the chicken to make sure you get every possible inch of surface area.  After you’ve put on more salt than you think you should, put on a little more.  Then you’re done (if you want to get technical, I think it requires around .5 lb).  Then wrap the container holding the chicken in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.  4 days is okay too, but five days is getting dicey. 

Now we jump to today:

Turn the oven to 450 degrees, and put a roasting pan in the oven as it heats up.  Then put a pot of water to boil (remember how I hate it when people don’t tell you to do this early on?).
Peel the potatoes down and wrap them in tin foil.
Then take the chicken out of the fridge, and put either half an onion (if you want to make gravy) or half a lemon (if you’re a citrus junky) in the cavity.

When the oven reaches 450, take the roasting dish out, and put the chicken in the dish, breast side up.  The chicken should sizzle when it makes contact with the very hot roasting pan.  Put the pan back in the oven.

On a higher rack, on the sides, put the sweet potatoes.  Then close the oven and set the timer to 55 minutes for a chicken 4.5lbs (50 minutes for 4lb, 45 for 3.5lb).

As the chicken is cooking, remove the kale from its stalks.  Greens come in two varieties – non-assertive greens, such as spinach (which can be eaten raw and don’t need to be de-stalked) and assertive greens, such as kale or collard greens, which need to be de-stalked and cooked before eaten (yes, I know some of you eat kale raw, but that’s gross).  

 I've prepared a video to show you how to do this, but blogger keeps on giving me an error when I try to upload it, so I put it on youtube instead.  It's 28 seconds long.

a video of me de-stemming kale

Once your kale is de-stalked, chop it up roughly. 
When the water comes to a boil, throw in the kale.  It should get nice and vivid green.  After around three minutes, use a colander to drain the kale in your sink.  The kale will keep cooking, so if it’s a little rawer than you usually take it, don’t worry.  Lots of recipes have you cook the kale longer, usually 8-10 minutes, but I think this is crazy.

After 55 minutes of roasting (or 50, or 45, depending on the size of your bird), take it out and flip it over, then put it in the oven for another ten.

You can also take the sweet potatoes out – try one.  If it’s cooked-through, then you’re all good.  If it's still hard in the middle, toss them back in the oven for another ten minutes.  Once they’re done, open them up (carefully – they’ll be steaming) and cut them into six or eight pieces and put them in a large bowl.

After you’ve flipped the bird, take it back out of the oven and flip it back so it's to breast-side up, and let it cook for another few minutes.

A Wonderful Dilemma

Once the bird is done – you’re faced with a wonderful dilemma – what to do with all of that beautiful fat you’ve rendered?  If you stuffed an onion into the cavity, toss that onion into a blender along with the rendered fat, and blend it up into the most delicious chicken gravy you’ll ever try.

If you went the lemon route, don’t worry – there’s still hope for you.  Pour half of the rendered fat into the bowl with the potatoes, and toss the kale in the remaining half.  If you used the fat to make the gravy, you can use some butter with the potatoes and some olive oil for the kale.  You can also throw whatever else you like in with the potatoes – Rafa and I used some chili powder tonight and a wee bit o' pepper.  Some people like brown sugar or some other sweetener, but I think the sweet potatoes are so delish they don’t really need it.  Then finish up the kale with a sprinkle of apple cider vinegar.

The chicken has rested sufficiently, and you can serve all of them together.  I’m going to include the same picture from the beginning of the post because I think the food looks so luscious.  Serve with a strong white, a dry rose, or a light red.  

The other things that’s nice about this recipe is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to have leftovers (unless you and dining companion are real pigs[MB1] ).  I always think that’s nice because it’s not like we can cook like this every night, so if you’re going through the effort, make it worth your while.

 [MB1]I usually don’t have left overs.  But tonight, with that big bird, I did.

1 comment:

  1. omg, I'm DYING for this meal! thank you! what a cook! what a writer! you're a genius!