Monday, December 10, 2007

Just What I Want

I think I mentioned I am being forced to burn some excess vacation between now and the end of the year. You can only carry over a week and I have 4 plus. So anyhow I am futzing around just doing fun stuff. One of the things I do for entertainment is cook and with no deadlines or conference calls I can tackle things that take a little longer to do. Unfortunately, I'm also on a diet since my bi-yearly checkup last Friday. Bummer. I normally don't weigh myself at home and I must say I was surprised at what I weigh and no, I am not telling. I'm not complaining because I seriously need to lose some pounds before the April trip to the UK and maybe I can lose some of these medications required to keep my blood sugar under control. I even bought an exercise bike over the weekend and have, so far, gotten some good miles in.

The effort to lose weight is going to put a little cramp in what I can experiment with in the kitchen but you can still cook light and still cook well.

One of my favorite foods is roasted whole chicken. Nothing fancy...just a high quality bird cooked properly. The latest Cook's Illustrated has an intriguing recipe for cooking a whole chicken in a dutch oven dry with just a an onion and some garlic and a low oven. It's a French method called poulet en cocotte. I usually braise or roast a chicken but this sounds good and I will report in as that is goal for today. BTW I am a charter subscriber to Cook's and I also subscribe to their website. It is one of the best recipe resources and they are also continually testing everything from olive oil to tomato paste as well as equipment. I highly recommend both for serious cooks.

Here is the recipe.

French Chicken in a Pot.

The cooking times in the recipe are for a 4 1/2- to 5-pound bird. A 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- to 6-pound bird will take close to 2 hours. We developed this recipe to work with a 5- to 8-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. If using a 5-quart pot, do not cook a chicken larger than 5 pounds. Use the best chicken available, such as a Bell & Evans. If using a kosher chicken, reduce the kosher salt to 1 teaspoon (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt). If you choose not to serve the skin with the chicken, simply remove it before carving. The amount of jus will vary depending on the size of the chicken; season it with about 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice for every 1/4 cup.

Serves 4

1 whole roasting chicken (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back (see note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion , chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small stalk celery , chopped medium (about 1/4 cup)
6 medium garlic cloves , peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 minutes.

2. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste. Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

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