Monday, December 12, 2011

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo!"

Song Pairing:
Angels We Have Heard On High by Collin Raye
Today is another birthday post.  It's my beautiful daughter-in-law, E's, birthday and, when I asked if she had a request, she was quick to let me know that Angels We Have Heard On High is her favorite Christmas song. It's also one of mine - just one of the many common loves we share.  Then, when I asked if there was a particular food she would like me to feature in her honor, it took a split second for her face to become a huge grin as she exclaimed, "A roasted half-chicken!"  All the girls that were around started laughing.  We knew the humor associated with a roasted half-chicken.  This delectable poultry dish has become part of the female lore in our family.  And I'm super happy to share my version - especially paired with this song because you WILL be shouting, "Glory to God in the highest!"

My son always did a good job in choosing his friends as he was growing up.  He did an even better job when it came to choosing a wife!  How I love my daughter-in-law!  And I'll give a quick shout-out of praise to her folks for raising such a wonderful girl!  I love her perfect blend of rocker chic and angel.  And I love that she blends so well with the family.

The first year they were married they came to join us for Thanksgiving - which meant my daughter-in-law would experience her first "day-after-Thanksgiving" shopping trip with us girls.  I have to admit that we were all a little nervous and excited - wondering if she'd love it as much as we did - did she have good "shopping legs?"  She set our minds to rest right away and we knew it was going to be an exceptionally memorable year!

The thing about shopping is that you get hungry - often!  Where we would eat each meal and snack was always planned out in advance according to where we would be shopping at that point in each day.  Well, the first meal we stopped for that year was a lunch.  We all perused the menu and made our selections and began our flurry of chatter while waiting for lunch to appear.  Each person's plate was deposited in front of them, barely causing a slowing in the conversation.  But, when E's dish was laid in front of her, we stopped - dead silence.  Not because of what she ordered - but because of the look on her face!  She was all astonishment as she stared at this huge plate of food before her.  It was half of a chicken!  Not cut up in pieces - an entire half of a chicken!  They simply cut a chicken in half and put it on her plate - and it was intended for a single entree!  I could tell she was embarrassed, being new to the family and wondering if we thought she was some sort of a hog or something.  We didn't.  I can't remember who started giggling first, but giggles gave way to outright chuckles and guffaws and the next thing we knew there were tears of laughter involved as we bandied about our chicken humor.

Then, she took a bite.  And, as she gave a cry of delight at how delicious it was, we sobered up a bit and, like myself, we all started hoping for an invitation to try this bird.  Soon enough she said, "You guys have got to try this!  It's amazing!"  We all did and we all agreed.  It was a heck of a tasty, albeit huge, chicken!

She resolved that she would take better care in reading the menu descriptions after that and we set about for an exhausting afternoon of shopping.

That evening - at another restaurant - we ordered dinner.  We are, once again, a flurry of chit chat, recounting our day's findings when our meal is delivered.  We all oooh and aaah over our selections, smelling in the lovely steam from each plate.  And then - there it was.  Placed before E was a huge roasted half-chicken - even more plump than the one at lunch!  She was speechless at first and then started protesting "I read it carefully!  It didn't say it was going to be an entire half of a chicken!"  It didn't - we checked.  But there it was, nonetheless.  After laughing ourselves silly - again - we all got to enjoy in the goodness that only a well-roasted chicken can provide. And it has become her "thing."  She now orders it on purpose, knowing that, although it's a large portion, it's going to be delicious - the ultimate comfort food.  And there will always be plenty of people around eager to help her finish it!

If everyone knew how to cook only one thing, I'd say that that one thing should be a roast chicken - whole or half.  And I'm serious about this.  It's such a versatile skill.  You can impress the most distinguished guest from work as well as your boyfriend/girlfriend's grandmother.  You can eat it as is or pull the meat off the bones and use it in sandwiches, salads, in casseroles, etc.  It's very, very easy to do.  In it's most basic execution, you can simply season the entire bird with salt, pepper, and herbs such as thyme, sage, or use poultry seasoning.  Rub a bit of olive oil around the surface as well.   Place in an open dish or cake pan, using chopped veggies or inverted forks to keep it from laying flat on the pan, and roast it "low and slow."  For a whole chicken I heat the oven to 325 degrees and roast it for about 3 hours.  You will want it to be 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, with juices running clear, when done.  It should be a lovely golden brown and pretty much fall apart.

If you're wanting to maybe try to do just a little extra, I recently found this recipe in my Where Women Cook magazine, Spring 2011 issue, page 63, and it is now my favorite way to roast a chicken.  This produces such a wonderful flavor and I use the drippings to make a gravy that will make you shout hosannas and dance a jig!

Honey-Roasted Chicken with Herbs de Provence Gravy
from Where Women Cook, Spring 2011
Printable Recipe Card

1 chicken, split in half
4 T. butter, melted
3 T. honey
2 t. sea salt
2 t. Herbs de Provence
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. white wine (I used a chardonnay)
1 celery stalk, roughly chunked
1 large carrot, roughly chunked
1/2 onion, roughly chunked
2 T. flour
1 T. butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rinse your chicken and pat dry.  I found this video for a quick demo on how to easily split your bird in half.  I bet that if you asked, though, your meat department at the store would do it for you.  Or just leave it whole!

You will be left with this.  

Throw that backbone in a freezer bag and freeze to make stock at another time!
I like to make a bed of cut up onions, celery, and carrots for the chicken to rest on.  The vegetables also flavor the drippings, which will help create that wonderful gravy at the end.

Mix together the melted butter, honey, sea salt, Herbs de Provence, and black pepper in a bowl.  Rub the mixture all over each half, making sure to get the undersides as well.  Place each half, skin side up, on top of vegetables.  I had some sprigs of fresh thyme on hand so I tucked one under each half as well.

Pour the wine into the pan around the vegetables.  Roast "low and slow" for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  You can baste, if you like, during the roasting process but you don't have to.

As it cooks, the honey helps caramelize the skin, leaving it perfectly crispy and a beautiful amber.  The meat underneath it  will be succulent and infused with flavor!  The aroma alone will leave you weak in the knees!

I remove the chicken to a platter or board to rest and then strain the juices from the roasting pan into a skillet.  (Honestly - I nibble on those carrot chunks while I make the gravy!)  To thicken the juices into a gravy I take a small plate and place the tablespoon of butter and the 2 T. of flour and mash together with a fork into a paste.

I heat the juices in the skillet and then whisk in the butter/flour mash and heat and whisk until it is bubbly and thickened.  Check the flavor and add salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve over roasted veggies or yummy mashed potatoes with the chicken!  Halleluia!  Gloria in excelsis deo!  It's delicious!

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