Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's for dinner?

What's for dinner? That is a question that strikes terror in the heart of day-to-day cooks. After four decades of cooking, I figure I've turned out something in the vicinity of 10,000 dinners alone. (If you don't want to know your own startling statistic, don't do the math--it frightened me, for sure!) After a while, making dinner gets boring. What else is there to make? And if your house is like mine, you don't get many suggestions from the peanut gallery. Maybe I should take it as a compliment, but my family trusts me implicitly with meal planning. It's a nightly dance. "What do you want for dinner?" "Oh, I don't know. Whatever you want to make." AARGH!

Chicken is my go-to entree. Out of those 10,000 meals, I bet over half have involved some form of fowl. It's versatile and easy to prepare, but I usually end up grabbing a package of skinless, boneless breasts because they cook more quickly than the whole bird. Here's a good compromise that is featured in the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food (although I've seen it in other books and magazines long before it appeared there).

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. Yes, 500. It's going to make the skin crispy without drying out the delicate breast meat. While the oven preheats, take your chicken (3 to 4 pounds), rinse, dry, and place it breast-side down on your working surface. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut down one side of the backbone, turn the chicken, and then cut down the other side. (I collect the backbones and the necks in the freezer until I have enough for stock. Waste not, want not.) Flip the chicken so the breast is skin up, and press on the breastbone until the chicken is flat. Sprinkle generously with salt (if using) and freshly ground pepper. Gently loosen the skin and insert aromatics (slices of lemon, or halved garlic cloves, or springs of thyme or rosemary) between the skin and the breast and thigh meat. Place the prepared chicken in a roasting pan or oven-proof skillet.

I like to put my oven to work, so I add vegetables to the pot. Tonight, I peeled a large sweet potato, cut it into chunks, dressed it with olive oil, and added the chunks to the pan. They were tender and slightly charred when the chicken was ready. I've also added chunks of potatoes and carrots. Everyday Food has several other suggestions.

Put everything into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the temperature at the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving. Another advantage to this preparation: you don't have to actually carve a bird, one of my least favorite chores. This recipe serves four. When you add a salad, slice a crusty loaf of bread, and pour a glass of your favorite white, you'll think you're in Tuscany.

Bon app├ętit!

1 comment:

  1. Just so you know, I haven't been married for four decades, just cooking!