Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Me and the Naked Chef in the Kitchen

I received “The Naked Chef Takes Off” as a birthday present as a teenager. I was a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s hip cooking show and loved looking at the pictures and reading this cookbook, which is chock full of British slang and Jamie’s quirky personality. Yet I never tried any recipes... Until last night, when I made an attempt at his “fantastic roast chicken”!

A whole chicken is a wonderfully economic thing to make for dinner, particularly for a young couple. Besides a delicious dinner, you’ve got leftovers for the next day’s lunch (great for sandwiches or salads), as well as a carcass and tidbits to freeze and use to make stock and/or soup at a later time. I made many (healthier and/or more desirable, in my opinion) adjustments to Jamie’s recipe, and was thrilled when it came out “absolutely fantastic”, as he would say. You simply must try parsnips with the vegetables - they were the best part!

One organic chicken ( I used a 5 lb. Chicken)
1 large lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 handfuls of fresh thyme, leaves picked from stems and finely chopped (I used a bit of fresh rosemary along with thyme)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 c. softened butter
Vegetables: chunks of potato (I used fingerlings), carrots, parsnips (they’re sweet and wonderful!), onions cut into quarters (if you do slices, they may burn), whole gloves of garlic if you like

Pre-heat the oven and an appropriately sized roasting pan to 425F. Wash your chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, part the breast skin from the breast meat. It’s important to try to push your hand gently down the breast, being careful not to rip the skin. With a zester, remove the fragrant yellow skin of the lemon, placing the peel in a bowl. Then add the softened butter, garlic, and whatever herbs you’re using. Season, then scrunch it all together. Push this into the space you have made between the meat and the skin - rub and massage any that’s left over in and around the bird. It’s all tasty stuff. Slash the thigh meat to allow the heat to penetrate a little more, which makes it taste better. Cut the peeled lemon in half and push it into the cavity. Prepare your vegetables by cutting them into approximately uniform sizes to cook evenly, season with salt/pepper, and pour them into the bottom of the roasting pan. Then put your chicken in the roasting pan and roast in the preheated over for 20 minutes. Stir the now-melted butter into the vegetables and continue to cook until the chicken is done. The whole baking process will probably take about an hour. Leave the chicken to stand for about 10 minutes before carving.

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