Thursday, March 21, 2013

winner, winner.

The groundhog was wrong. The weather is still cold. This fickle, fickle March we're craving comfort food when we should be begging for the season's first barbecue. Where else to turn than a homey chicken cooked in a pot? Throw in some rice and some potatoes and we've got ourselves a winner. (A winner dinner?)

So tonight I share with you my go-to chicken-in-a-pot recipe. This, my friends, is Jon's favorite. Just please don't let him hear me tell you how darned easy it is. All you need is a whole chicken (I prefer  one from Polyface, or another pasture-raised bird), some vegetables, rice, and a pot. And a few other things, but don't go making an extra grocery run for them. If you don't have potatoes, use carrots and/or celery. Add some dried fruit? Sure. Whatever you have, you'll make do. 
- 1 cup Basmati rice, salted generously and cooked as instructed
- 1 (4.5- to 5-lbs.) whole roasting chicken, giblets removed and discarded
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 6-8 small potatoes, quartered (I like a medley of red, Russet, and blue, for color)
- 6 medium garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- juice from 1 lemon
A whole, roast chicken? But I have an infant! Never fear: This meal can be accomplished while watching your five-month-old. Simply place your child in a jumper seat, preheat your oven, prep your chicken and veggies, and, by the time your babe wants to be held again, your chicken will be out of your hands, in the oven, and roasting, slowly, for a delicious dinner ... preferably enjoyed after said bebe is has been tucked into bed. That's how we roll in this family, at least. 
Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Wash and pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. (If you're feeling crazy, throw in a dash of paprika, too. Whoa, now.) Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until smoking. Add chicken, breast-side down; lightly brown--about 5 minutes. Be sure to keep moving the bird in the oil so that it does not stick. 
Flip the bird (ha!) breast-side up and cook until well browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon rice into the cavity of the chicken, scatter onion, potatoes, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary around the chicken. Place a large sheet of foil over the pot and cover tightly with lid. Place in oven until an intant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 80 minutes. 
Remove pot from oven. Transfer the rice from the cavity of the chicken to a separate bowl. Tent chicken with foil on a carving board, and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put potatoes and onions aside in a bowl for serving, and discard the rest of the solids. Strain chicken juices from the pot through a fine-mesh stainer. Pour liquid into a saucepan and set over low heat. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and  stir in lemon juice. Carve chicken and serve.
Don't be fooled by the pale, soft skin of this bird. The low-temperature oven yields tender, flavorful meat just bursting with concentrated chicken flavor. And, with your rice and potatoes and onions coming from the same pot, the meal is complete.
When I serve this dish, I like to make sure there's candlelight and fresh flowers--they complete the Parisian-bistro effect as you savor each bite. It never hurts to pop a bottle of wine, either. Just saying.