You may recall that I don’t really know how to cook meat. The majority of my leaving-the-home and thus-learning-to-cook-on-my-own years were also my vegetarian years (give or take a few hamburgers here and there). Last year I decided that, even though I still prefer to think of meat as an optional part of a meal and not an integral one, I still should know how to cook it for the benefit of family, friends, and assorted other guests. (As Jewish folklore has taught me, the prophet Elijah could show up on my doorstep at any point and I assume he would prefer chicken over tofu.) Therefore I have continued what began when I hosted Thanksgiving two years ago and discovered, to my utter amazement and frustration, that roasting poultry is harder than it at first looks. The Great Chicken Endeavor continues.
The Great Chicken Endeavor Goal of 2010: Learn how to roast a chicken.
The Great Chicken Endeavor Goal of 2011: Learn how to roast a chicken correctly.
(Some of you – especially HJ, who I think was on the phone with me at the time -- may recall that the first goal was indeed met last year, but only by accidentally roasting the chicken upside down. Hence this year's goal.)
Unit GCE 2011, Day 1.
Objectives: to successfully roast a chicken, right-side up.
Steps to achieving objective:
Step 1: Buy chicken, assemble ingredients
[I find it mildly disconcerting that this chicken was grown on the West Coast. Remember when plants were grown and animals, such as the chicken, were raised?]
Step 2: Discover that, though handling giblets is in general of a disturbance to you, having to fish them out of the inner cavity because they did not come in the nice little bag is, shall we say, somewhat grosser.
Step 3: Also discover that you have no twine with which to tie the legs, and you cannot understand what it could mean to “tuck wings under” the bird. After a few tries and a simulated walk across the counter (in which you are able to discern which way the chicken would have stood in order to walk), decide that you have in fact placed the chicken with the correct side up.
[Why do they call it "breast side up" when "belly up" would make so much more sense?]
Step 4: Rub with oil and paprika blend and, with a grimace, stuff two cut heads of garlic into the cavity. Wonder briefly what they mean by “both cavities.” Then remember that the original recipe called for two chickens to be roasted side-by-side, and move on.
Step 5: Roast. Check temperature periodically, discovering that with a chicken this small (4lbs) you are really not sure what constitutes the “thickest part of the thigh.” Originally believe that you are not even entirely sure what the thigh is, but then recall the simulated walk the naked chicken did across the counter and realize that the smaller appendages must be wings and thus, the larger ones thighs. (Hopefully.)
Step 6: Make caramelized carrots with feta and chive-black pepper biscuits. No problems there.
Step 7: Call sister (the one with a biology major) to try and figure out which one of the giblets is the liver, as that one shouldn’t go in the stock pot.
Step 8: Throw out the one that is your best guess (the grayish one that is lonely, as the smaller red round ones that come in pairs must be the kidneys?) and dump the rest into the simmering stock.
Step 9: Ignore the stock for a while, and decide to eat dinner.
Step 10: Feel lonely. Wish that your boyfriend were there to share it, and compliment you heartily on this, the first chicken attempt of 2011.
[Please tell me that this is, in fact, right-side-up.]
Objectives for the next lesson:
-Buy baker’s twine.
-Learn how to “tuck under” the wings.
-Reduce amount of giblet-disturbance by 50%.
-Learn how to carve a chicken.
-Wait to cook it until someone is there to share it with you.