Saturday, February 28, 2009
The images in this post were brought to you by the writer's awesome boyfriend, who gave her a sweet new camera for Valentine's day! What a sweetheart of a guy, eh?
Last weekend, I got the urge, as I so often do on the weekends, to cook myself a nice meal on Sunday. I decided on the menu on Saturday, and then made the surprisingly proactive decision to do the necessary shopping that very evening. Grocery shopping on Saturday night at FoodTown actually turned out to be a pretty pleasant experience. There were far fewer people in the little market than usual, and there was actually still food on the shelves, not always a certainty on Sundays. (Especially on Superbowl Sundays, when you've forgotten that it is Superbowl Sunday and are looking for cilantro for a non-Superbowl related dish.) After picking up my ingredients, and chatting with the affable young checker, I was feeling pretty good about Sunday dinner: Paprika Roast Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries
I had made these sweet potato fries once before, so I knew they were tasty and relatively easy. I needed to know that I had one ace in the hole, because this was my first time roasting a chicken, and I wasn't sure what pitfalls awaited me. I had always heard that roasting a chicken was easy. Like really easy. Like falling off a log easy. But you've got to understand--I've been (mostly) cooking vegetarian for the past two years. Vegetarian cooking is just as complex and interesting as its omnivorous counterpart, but in a different way. For example, you don't have to worry about getting salmonella from a block of raw tofu, nor do you have to carve roasted eggplant once it comes out of the oven. Roasting a chicken was a whole other ball game, and I wanted to be prepared for an epic failure. Just to make this crystal clear--I have no problem eating a bowl full of sweet potato fries for dinner.
Per the About.com entry on roasting a chicken, I made sure to wear an article of poultry-related clothing, and spent a few minutes meditating in the Lonely Chicken yoga pose beforehand. If you're going to do something, do it right, you know? Once my mind was cleared of all non-roasty thoughts, I removed my little free-range organic chicken from its plastic to rinse it in the sink. Holding it in my hands, I began to feel quite tenderly towards it. Here was an animal that had lived and died, and was now going to be sustenance for me. "Don't worry little chicken," I thought at it, "You've given me your life, now I'll do the rest." I gently patted it dry and placed it in the roasting pan.
I made sure to get the spice rub together beforehand, which consisted primarily of paprika, with some of the extra-hot chili powder I had procured from the Indian grocery, and some garlic powder and salt. This roast chicken prompted me to buy paprika for the first time ever, and I was really impressed with the brand of the spice carried by FoodTown.
Not only is it the Pride of Szegeo, an exquisite 100% sweet delicacy, but the tin is reversable! Don't care for paprika in a white tin? Turn it around and you have a cheery red one! Glorious.
The paprika, and by extension the spice rub was just as cheerily red, helped by the addition of the wonderfully spicy chili powder. I don't know about you, but chili powder from McCormack or whatever is never, ever hot enough. It mostly just tastes sort of burnt to me, and after picking up a honkin' bag of the Indian version from Patel's Grocery in Sunset Park, I will never buy the grocery store stuff again. Not only is this chili powder flavorful and HOT, it's waaaay cheaper and comes in greater quantity. As someone who likes everything spicy-hot (I put a little pinch of the stuff in my mocha this morning), I am totally sold on this stuff forever and ever. Rubbing the spice mixture on my little chicken, being sure to get it underneath the skin whenever possible, my hands started to burn--this made me smile...and then immediately run to the sink to rinse the spices from my skin. The chicken was ready for the next phase of its journey to my mouth: The oven.
I began preparing the potatoes as my apartment filled up with the delicious aroma of roasting fowl. I peeped in at the chicken once or twice, but mostly I just let it do its thing. As roasting time approached one hour, I took its temperature--not quite there yet, so another ten minutes and BAM! Right on the money. Removing the bird from the oven, redolent with the glorious smells of paprika, chicken, and triumph, was a wonderful moment.
I'm happy to report that I did not do a terrible job of carving. Sure, there was probably a little more meat left on the carcass than was ideal, but for a first timer, I was pretty happy with the whole business, overall. I had a dish full of chicken meat to eat for the rest of the week, and a roasting pan full of chickeneverythingelse to throw in a pot with some onions and rosemary to make stock! This was the first time I'd ever made stock of any kind, and again, I was really pleased with the result. It came out so flavorful and spicy--I'm really looking forward to using it in soups-to-come.
So, was the roast chicken a success? YES--the meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful from the spice rub. Cooking a whole chicken yields breast meat that is much less dry and boring than the individual breasts you can buy in the supermarket. Was cooking the roast chicken easy? YES--OMG, so easy, and relatively quick. Cooking time was about one hour, and preparing the chicken probably took 10-15 minutes, the same with carving. Was cooking a roast chicken economical? YES--even though I used a fancypants organic free-ranger, the chicken itself was around $10, providing me with chicken for an entire week, plus about six cups of stock. All of the other ingredients I mostly had in the pantry or will be able to use again (the paprika, for example.) What have we learned? That roasting a chicken is easy, cheap, and delicious; there is no reason to be intimidated by roasting a chicken, so go out and roast one of your very own today!