I am not the biggest fan of chicken. At its best it can be good, but its rarely something that wows me or that I crave. As of late, I have been a bit sassy when it comes to the ridiculous amount of how-to-roast-a-chicken-recipes that are out there, Jane Black wrote an interesting piece on Cook's Magazine about their multitude of chicken recipes. That said, when the weather gets crisp, a roasted chicken says comfort, and dinner for a few days. Plus there is the added bonus of making stock with the left over bones, and my frugal, ok cheap, side is all over that.
I was watching some episode of Diary of a Food with Ruth Reichl (I think its the spin-off called Adventures with Ruth) and actress Dianne Wiest. They were both in an Italian cooking school, and a bird of some sort was being roasted and the Italian cook placed the bird directly on the wire oven rack. No pan... well there was one, on the rack below to catch the drippings. Ruth had an "why didn't I think of that" ah-ha moment, when the process was being described and I decided my quasi-ban on chicken needed to be lifted to experiment, asap.
Flash forward to semi-impromptu cooking with pals and watching Top Chef Wednesday. I feel like a post-modern Johnny Appleseed, trekking up the steep hills of Somerville toting a 4lb. chicken, plus a random gathering of potatoes, onions, herbs, spices and some spinach, that I added to my backpack as I stopped at the Sherman Market for something green. Realizing that muddying up a friend's oven, might be the quickest way to get myself uninvited from future fun, it was decided to modify the put-chicken-on-rack plan.
The basic recipe is chicken + spice + garlic + root veggies. Here are the specifics:
-chop up two preserved limes, flesh and all, toss with some zatar spice to cover, and put them into the cavity of the chicken
-peel 5 cloves of garlic and throw them in the cavity as well
-rub the chicken with zatar spice, all over
You really want to rub the chicken with oil/butter don't you. Well just stop right there and DON'T. You want the skin dry so it will crisp up.
-chop up your root vegetables - I used half a celeriac root, 3 onions, 5 potatoes, 6 more cloves of garlic
-toss veggies with salt and a little olive oil to coat
-put veggies in roasting pan, or weird paella-like dish you find in a cupboard
-put a wire rack over the roasting pan
-put the chicken on the wire rack
Throw the whole thing into a HOT (450-500F) oven to bake
We flipped the bird over (placing the breast side down) toward the end of cooking. I would recommend doing this at the half way point next time because the drumstick meat was starting to dry out a bit. On the whole, it was delicious. The meat was perfumed by the preserved limes, the vegetables got a lot of nice brown (ok, some where black) char on them and the celery root completely melted in with the chicken drippings, making a great sauce.
We had a side salad of spinach and thinly sliced daikon radish with a mustard vinaigrette.
Where is the "done" photo?
The entire thing was devoured too quickly.
I guess I will have to make again... soon.