My friend Julie hates to cook. Historically I have been suspicious of these kinds of people. These “hating to cook” kinds of people. I assumed they were lazy. Or easily confused. Or possibly kidnapped and tied up in a kitchen at some point in their lives. Until I met Julie.
She isn’t lazy, or entitled. Her mother isn’t an amazing chef who kicked her out of the kitchen (which is another common excuse) and she was never held hostage tied to an appliance. She just genuinely hates to cook. She kind of can’t stand the bother of eating either – I mean she does it but solely as a means to keep energy levels up in her body which enables her to do other things. Like lay tile and plumb showers. On that note, she is the best looking house renovator you’ll ever meet. (And for what it’s worth she creates some damn good looking properties.)
Aaaaanyway. I admire Julie for being comfortable with who she is and confident in her beliefs. She doesn’t pretend to like to cook when I come around. When she comes over for dinner she tackles the washing up enthusiastically and is inquisitive about ingredients. She is also voracious in her praise and genuinely interested in how I know what to put in where and when. She is interested because it comes together kind of like magic to her. Very much the way her making a trip to Home Depot and then creating a magazine worthy shower looks like magic to me.
Because of Julie I have a daydream to write a cookbook. The idea is to call it Recipes for Julie and in it I will place 100 recipes, divided by season, that she can cook without being nervous or intimidated, no scary words, no ingredients she has to order online. Projects she can undertake in the kitchen and be confident in their result. I will have appetizers, main courses, salads, desserts and cocktails. Each item will pair with another in the book to help her put together full meals, brunches, dinners for herself and her family. Nothing will take too long. Nothing will be too arduous. It will be full of recipes custom made for Julie.
Life has a way of running away from me, though, so who knows if that will ever happen. In the meantime I’ll start off with the first of my Recipes for Julie. A perfectly roasted chicken.
It is easy to find recipes for roasted chicken but the hard thing is to find recipes that tell the truth. Ones that work. Ones that end up with a plump, juicy chicken that actually tastes like something. Oh, and recipes that are really simple, so they don’t scare Julie off. She needs a simple and delicious recipe that will always work and will always be gratifying.
There are two really important parts of making a great roast chicken. One is to baste it halfway through. That means you somehow manage to pick up the liquid that has rendered off of the chicken (and in this case bacon lardons too) and pour it over the chicken while it is cooking. Once is enough. Just enough to coat the chicken, moisten the skin and infuse some flavor into the bird. The other important thing is to let it sit before carving. I would let it sit for 20 minutes before carving it. This helps to lock the moisture in and prevent a dry roasted chicken.
With a beautifully presented, golden brown, herb-infused, roasted chicken as your centerpiece all you need to serve on the side is a big green salad and a fresh warm baguette. An American Pinot Noir or an Italian Barbera d’ Alba are perfect wines to drink and the whole set up won’t break the bank. (Another thing that is important to Julie.)
So, here you go my friends. Your first very simple, really delicious recipe. I made it for Julie, but you can have it too. She won’t mind.
- 1kg (2lb) free range chicken
- 250g (1/2 lb) thick cut smoked bacon lardons (ask at the butcher counter)
- 2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 onions. One red, one yellow. Peeled and chopped into quarters.
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 lemons, each cut in half
- 1 bunch parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and leave, covered, on the counter for an hour or more to bring it up to room temperature. Move your oven rack to the center of the oven with no racks above it and then preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
- Once the chicken has warmed up to room temperature, rub it with the olive oil and then evenly sprinkle the salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne around on the chicken. Place it in a roasting pan and place two lemon halves, three sprigs of thyme, two sprigs of parsley and two of the cloves of garlic inside of the chicken.
- Around the outside of the chicken place the chunky cut up celery, carrots, peeled and chopped onions and the remainder of the garlic. Squeeze the juice of the remaining two lemon halves around the veggies and add the spent lemon rinds to the veggies in the roasting pan. Sprinkle the bacon lardons evenly around the pan with the veggies. Add a final drizzle of olive oil to the breast of the chicken and then place the chicken and veggies in the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 190ºC/375ºF. Bake for 45 minutes then remove from the oven and fully baste the chicken and the veggies with the fat that has come from the bacon and chicken. To do this either use a turkey baster or tilt the roasting pan to make all of the fat accumulate in one corner and use a small ladle to scoop it up and pour it over the chicken and the veggies.
- Return it to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes.
- Pull it out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes without touching it. Then place the chicken onto a cutting board but still don't touch it for another 10 minutes. After that remove the lemons and herbs from inside the chicken and carve. Either discard the vegetables that cooked with the chicken or make a gravy with them. If you want to tackle a gravy, try this one from Jamie Oliver.
- Carve the chicken and serve!