a home cook with notions & an appetite
There is very little about the whole River Cottage life that I don’t absolutely adore the idea of – getting to grow and raise your own food in a sustainable, awesome farmhouse that becomes a community-building connected business and way to educate others on the joys of local and sustainable foods. What’s not to love? Other than the incredibly hard work and lack of 400-year-old farmhouses and inability to wear fashion stilettos on the farm and having nature and coyotes to battle for your work? See, this is why I belong to a CSA. I know where my level of romanticism for a lifestyle and actual ability to sustain said lifestyle actually match up.
I still want a 400-year-old farmhouse. With modern amenities. And excellent insulation. To visit.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the River Cottage Roast Chicken and Test Chicken #9. Which is the best farm-to-table looking bird that you’ll do thus far. Really. If you want to feel like you’re serving something that you raised in your backyard, likely killed that morning and mixed with ingredients you sourced yourself on the farm, this is it. You, of course, do some gardening on the farm and have a dairy cow. And a wine habit. (I can only take the fantasy so far, and even raising chickens, a dairy cow and growing herbs while running a winery is a bit much even in pretend-land.) What I’m saying, is that this is the chicken where you can almost feel the Wellies on your feet while you’re making it.
Here are the ingredients:
That’s the entire list. It even reads very I-live-on-an-old-farm, doesn’t it?
The herb-butter is very straight-forward. Making sure the butter is soft is key to this recipe. Husband and I have an advantage, as we leave our butter out full time. That’s right. It sits out on the counter. Look, butter is made from pasteurized milk to start with, so in order for butter to go bad, it has to develop new nasties. If your house has an environment that will allow butter to develop bad pathogens in such a way as to cause you harm overnight, I can assure you that you have much bigger issues on the biological front (you should stop cooking now and invest in an industrial steam cleaner and the kind of bleach you need ID for ASAP). Before you’ll grow nasty molds and whatnots, the butter will go rancid. Rancid won’t kill you, but you won’t want to eat it. Even this guy agrees with me, although I don’t feel the need to buy butter bells. My covered butter dish is just fine.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, herb butter – I chopped the herbs, crushed garlic and mixed softened butter with generous amounts of salt and pepper:
Isn’t that herb butter just lovely? It really is.
Next comes the bird. By now, I think you’re already assuming that I dried the bird, right? That’s right, lots of paper towels. There is one trick that I didn’t photograph since it required both hands. Basically, I pushed both of my hands (yeah, they’re small), into the bird and spread him out. This wasn’t a rib-cracking, bird-breaking exercise, but one where the bird was flatter and the cavity was simply bigger. The idea behind this was so that the bird would cook faster. I was preheating the oven to 400 degrees at this time. Put my bird in my roasting pan and smeared him all over – inside and out – with the butter. Poultry massage has become a new specialty of mine since starting this little project.
The last photo there represents the end of the first phase of cooking. There were three phases. I should mention these in order. The first phase involved the preheat of 400 degrees. The chicken roasted at 400 degrees simply in herb butter for 20 minutes. Smelled fantastic (important step). In phase two (which is what is starting with the photo you see), the 1/2 glass of whine is being poured into the dish (NOT over the chicken), and the oven was turned down to 350 degrees. I had a larger bird, so I went for the longer 40 minute roasting time. Phase 3 is interesting. I turned the oven off, opened the oven door and let the chicken rest in the oven for 20 minutes. So it’s a rest, but a warmer rest.
Scroll back up and look at the done chicken. See those pan juices? Mostly butter and wine. Awesome. No need to worry about gravy. We had the usual Brussels sprouts (you’ve had to have noticed these in the photos by now), but also had some fresh bread with dinner that night. Best.Dipping.Sauce.Ever. We also took Hugh’s advice and carved the bird right in the pan, so that meant every piece of chicken came lathered in butter, rendered chicken fat and wine. Very nutritious.
This is an easy and delicious bird. The main downside is the skin. Between the huge amount of butter, the steaming of the wine and sitting in a ton of juices, the skin just doesn’t crisp up at all. Of course, one of the the items Hugh points to enjoying the next day is “congealed bits of skin,” so this is clearly a preference issue. But fresh bread dipped into chicken-fat-herb butter? If only I really could convince myself this was a nutritious, everyday treat.