So many of my favorite recipes, along with what I think and know about cooking and creating a meal, I learned from my mother. My mother, who worked full time throughout most of my life and somehow still managed to make my family breakfast every morning (chocolate milkshakes with Breyers ice cream, whole milk, and Carnation Instant Breakfast were my fave), pack our lunches every day, and make a homecooked and delicious dinner almost every night. How did she do it? I have no freakin idea, which is slightly troubling when I imagine my own hopefully family filled future. But she did, and it was awesome. And since I keep taking every opportunity to learn her secrets, like when I went home last week and had her supervise me through two chicken dishes, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
I mentioned in Laura and my 2013 resolutions post that I want to get comfortable with roasting chicken this year. I know that it’s really truly easy–when I mentioned to La that I was planning on doing some roasting during my spring break she said, “you will be alarmed by how easy it is and you will wonder why you don’t roast a chicken every week,” and she was of course right. Easy tho I know it is, roasting a whole chicken makes me nervous. As I’ve said before, I don’t cook a lot of meat, and when I do I tend to second guess myself–one of my biggest cooking faults–wondering if I’ve over cooked it, or under cooked it, or if I’m about to poison everyone I’m eating with. So it was great to have my mom in the kitchen with me (or in shouting distance in the living room) while I worked through her steps for a really simple roast chicken.
I know there are a million great roast chicken recipes out there, and there are several I’m exited to try (this and this spring right to mind), but to get comfy this process of my mom’s was great. The most complicated steps are making a cute little celery rack to balance the chicken on, and sliding thinly sliced garlic way up under the skin of the breast (kind of gross but definitely satisfying work), and neither of these is that complicated at all. The end result was moist and full of flavor, with a lovely hit of garlic, and I found myself completely agreeing with Laura and wondering why I don’t roast every week. I’m sure this chicken would benefit from lemon, or perhaps rosemary, but it’s perfectly great as is. It makes for a delicious dinner, with plenty of meat left over for other recipes…like my mom’s chicken curry.
I’ve eaten a lot of delivery curry in my New York life, both Thai and Indian. This curry is neither of those curries, but it is extremely tasty. My mother reckons that she got the recipe from either my aunt Frannie or an old Oatlands cookbook, but either way it feels like a fairly Virginia-fied dish (especially when my mom tops hers with red pepper jam). The curry flavor is there, tho it’s not spicy, and I imagine that the addition of apple might strike some readers as odd (give it a shot–it adds a great hint of sweetness and, along with the celery, a nice crunch). I’d recommend thinking of this less as a traditional curry and more of a tasty creamy chicken stew. It’s also a fantastic weeknight dinner, because it comes together so quickly. When you’re using pre-cooked chicken, the dish is done in less time than it takes to make rice. It also doubles and freezes really nicely. All the more reason to start a practice of weekly chicken roasting.
simple roast chicken
1 chicken–7.5ish pounds in this case
5 celery stalks: 3 to make a rack, two for inside the chicken
1 onion, quartered: three quarters for inside the chicken, one quarter for the pepperidge farm insta stuffing you’re obviously making to go with the chicken
3-4 garlic cloves, in thin slices
salt, pepper, and veggie oil
Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the creepy weird bag of insides from the chicken, pat the chicken dry. Season the main and neck cavities with salt and pepper, stuff onion and celery inside both. Place chicken, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan on a rack that you’ve cleverly made from three celery sticks (slice a small strip off of each so they’ll lay flat and the chicken can balance on top). Put garlic slices under the skin–really get in there! Tuck the wings under the breasts, and, using kitchen twine, tie the legs together. Rub chicken with oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 2 and a half-ish hours (depending on the size of the chicken), or until the little thermometer thingy pops out. Done!
4 tbs. butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tbs. curry powder
2 cups milk
2 cups diced cooked chicken (or turkey, if you’d prefer)
1/4 cup celery, chopped fine
1 cup chopped tart apple, unpared
Saute onion in butter until softened. Combine flour, salt, ginger and curry powder in a small bowl. Add flour and spice mixture to onion and butter, stir to combine, then gradually stir in milk. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens. Add chicken, celery and apple. Cook about five minutes.
Serve over rice, plain (my preference) or with condiments (my mom’s) like chopped peanuts, raisins, chutney, red pepper jam or bacon.