Thursday, September 8, 2011

My First Roast Chicken



I've roasted my first chicken - one whole bird sans feathers and head. All by myself with just a few tips from my 1973 Good Housekeeping Cookbook (and a little reliance on tips from Ina Garten's roasted chicken recipe). I've got to say, it was so easy and so delicious and so moist I couldn't possibly go back to prepackaged, disassembled chicken breasts. From now on, I'll shopping for the best whole chickens rather than bothering with those expensive shrink-wrapped breasts.

Roasting chicken is also the perfect use for my Blue Cornflower CorningWare 5 qt dutch oven. It nicely captured all the juices and the clear glass lid kept the chicken moist while still allowing the bird's skin to brown and crisp. And when I pulled the chicken from the oven, I didn't have to waste time crimping foil around the resting bird - I just popped on my handy-dandy glass lid.


The whole roasted bird provided enough meat for two very generously sized meat pies: a chicken pot pie and a Tex Mex shepherds pie. I'm still working on these recipes so I can't share anything but pictures just yet, but thanks to these two pies, I won't need to cook new meals at all this week - and there will still be left overs in the freezer! Oh, and thanks to the chicken carcass and left over vegetable trimmings, I'll be able to make homemade chicken stock.


With all that extra time saved with my pot pies, I had a chance to once again attempt peach pie. I'm mostly happy with the result, although I think it could use more salt, perhaps in the crust. I significantly reduced the number of peaches, left out the caramel sauce, swapped out chopped almonds for sliced, and blind-baked the pasty shell before filling. Sadly, we're mostly past peach season, so I won't be attempting this recipe again until likely next summer. But maybe I can find one more batch of good peaches so I can finally rest happy with this recipe...


I also found time to attempt fresh strawberry ice cream for the first time. I suspect something as good as strawberry ice cream is tough to mess up, so I consider my success to be nothing of note, but the creamy result was spectacular. I used strawberries from the summer that I had frozen off in batches and then defrosted, so I was able to cut my maceration time for the berries down to just 30 minutes. I also based my strawberry ice cream on my vanilla base which I have been working on for the last couple of months (leaving out the cardamom). Rather than adding cognac at the end, I added a couple teaspoons of raspberry vodka - both for flavor and to stop ice crystallization. I'm not sure I can ever go back to ice cream from a carton.


I also had time to do some research on sugar cookies. I've decided I need plenty of time to prepare for Christmas cookies because most years I'm scrambling during the last three weeks after Thanksgiving to bake and cook. Besides, a satisfying sugar cookie recipe has eluded me for years, and I am determined to arrive at a happy place long before Christmas arrives. Thus, I need to start my research early.

It seems older sugar cookie recipes favor shortening while more recent versions favor butter. It seems older recipes use a bit less liquid and more flour, suggesting a dryer and perhaps denser cookie. A teaspoon on vanilla and a half teaspoon of salt seem to be consistent across all recipes, and I have only seem a couple recipes that add other spices like nutmeg.


I want a sugar cookie with a crispy bottom, a chewy center, buttery flavor, and flakey texture. I suspect a combination of butter and shortening, high but short bake time, and well chilled dough will be the key. And perhaps a higher ratio of egg yolk.

Did I mention I also found time to work two 10 hour days?

All of this has been possible thanks to a succulent roasted chicken. Who knew starting from scratch could result in so much free time?





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