Genius Recipes, Number 6: Simplest Roast Chicken

February 20, 2018

simplest Roast chicken 1

Six years ago, we renovated our kitchen. I went from an old 1978 oven, the kind they put in track homes, to an industrial size Wolf, the oven of my dreams. With this beautiful oven, I would bake and cook magical things, and everything would come out perfect. My son had just graduated college and was moving back. My daughter was about to go off to college. So I was determined to make that summer memorable. I had Sunday family dinner fantasies, you know the kind – everyone sitting around the dinner table, laughing, talking, making memories. The whole Normal Rockwell thing.

To top it off, I had visions of being Ina Garten, making her perfect roast chicken for dinner every Sunday, the table set beautifully, the roast coming out of the oven golden with crispy skin and moist, tender meat. Well, I made that roast, and it was a flop. The meat was dry and the skin looked sick. I tried again the next weekend, and the next, only to have all three attempts end in disaster and a total splatter mess in my new oven. After that, my family found an excuse to either eat out or request something else – anything but chicken. My daughter still makes fun of me because, the entire time she was growing up, I would say, “The chicken is dry, dip in it the gravy,” or the sauce, or whatever. And so there died my dreams of making a Sunday chicken dinner for my family.

Yesterday, I woke up and convinced myself to find a recipe to work through. Actually, I forced myself to look through the book and see if anything caught my eye. I ended up just going to the market to be inspired. They had a great sale on whole chicken at $1.69 a pound. Inspiration!

When a recipe includes a warning that you should temporarily unplug your smoke detector, you have many thoughts that go through your mind – mostly, “Oh, no,” and then your head starts to spin with visions of the potential danger ahead. The genius tip included with the recipe (which you can find on the Food52 website) says to expect a lot of spattering and/or smoke. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you can set it and use it when you go to bed that night. But the Genius Recipes editors also write that you might be able to avoid this by adding chopped potatoes to the pan to soak up all the juices and keep the chicken from making a huge mess in your oven in the first place. That, I could do – and it worked.

This dish is a true winner! A double, triple winner!!! It made me a GENIUS. Truly. It was so simple, so easy, and not at all scary once it was done. You set the oven at high heat, add some butter, lemon and garlic to the chicken cavity. You salt and pepper the outside, then stick it in the oven and wait until it’s done. The book says it should take about ten minutes per pound. I know my oven is calibrated to cook at the registered temperature, yet it still took an extra 15 minutes. I did see the juices running out, and some spattering, but the potatoes caught all that goodness. The skin was golden and crispy and the meat was very moist.

There is an option for making a gravy with the juices, but I opted not to. By the time I got to that step, I was tired and we were ready to eat. Next time, I’ll give it a try. I think it could only add to an already perfect dish, and all I’ll need to do is start cooking a little earlier.

Barbara Kafka, the creator of this recipe, is the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the author of many, many cookbooks, and the winner of the Best Single Subject Cookbook at the 2006 IACP Awards for her book Vegetable Love. She was a regular contributor to The New York Times. In my mind, she is definitely a genius.

My dreams of having family come to Sunday dinner have been revived. The fantasy of having that beautifully set table is back, all of us together and sharing a really excellent chicken dinner.

The cost: $12.10 with the chicken on sale.

The time: 1 hour and 15 minutes. Prep time was 10 minutes and cooking time was 65. Easy peasy.

Genius Recipes, Number 2: Chicken Thighs with Lemon

January 22, 2018

This recipe promises to take bland boring uncooked chicken and turn it into a dish that is “impossibly crisp” and will “satisfy your darkest fried chicken cravings.” It did not disappoint!

I don’t know where to even begin with this recipe. It is a whole lot of pure deliciousness. There are only five ingredients – chicken thighs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and preserved lemons. The skin is perfectly crisp, the meat is moist and tender, and the citrus is an amazing addition. The preserved lemon really elevates this dish – although you could easily substitute regular lemons if needed.

crispy chicken thighs with lemon 2

The chicken cooks long and slow over a barely hot pan – and the recipe asks you to not touch it, just leave it alone until it is ready to turn over. Well, that didn’t work for me. I couldn’t trust myself to leave it alone. I checked on it a bunch of times. At one point, I even turned up the heat. Impatient? Maybe.

The other thing I had hoped for with this recipe was that I could avoid all that spattering and grease that flies over your stove top. I was wrong – you need a good splatter screen no matter what, and there was clean up needed on the stove top. Still, this dish is worth the mess.

These chicken thighs will go into my weekly or monthly rotation. I have two picky family members who do not like lemon – how that is even possible, I have no idea. But you can easily take the cooked chicken out of the pan, warm up the chopped lemon in the pan, and then pour it over the thighs for the people who know lemon makes almost everything better. For those that are misguided, I kept it off – it made no difference and the chicken was equally delicious.

salt preserved lemon slices

This dish is featured in Genius Recipes, the cookbook I am currently working my way through, and is from Canal House. They talk about using fresh ingredients and making dishes that are approachable. This is certainly true with this “genius” recipe. I have found their series of cookbooks on Amazon, and they look fabulous. As wrong as it is to add to my collection at this time, I am putting the first two books on my wish list – and hoping for the full series at some point.

Did this dish make me a genius? Yup (big grin here), at least when it comes to very crispy chicken skin.

crispy chicken thighs with lemon 1

One last note: I saved the schmaltz and lemon left in the pan to add to veggies I will make tomorrow. It was so good I just couldn’t toss it.

The cost: $5.55 for the whole thing! I found a great deal at Pavillion’s on the three chicken thighs. I had salt-preserved lemons already, but if I had to buy them they would’ve cost about $1.15.

The time: About 45 minutes to an hour, including prep.