Many years ago, on a trip to Paris, we spent New Year’s Eve with friends who lived on Rue St. Martin, close to the canal. Their fourth floor apartment overlooked an empty space of trees and grass and benches, a haven for lovers at all hours of the day and night, in a variety of embraces– and more. On New Year’s Eve, the park became a festival of light–from fireworks, to lit cigarettes, to candles.
Inside, we were busy with our own modest festival of music and wine and good conversation and food. Earlier in the day, F. had bought a plump, mid-sized whole chicken from the local market; it was to be the centerpiece of our meal. We lugged all the ingredients of our festive table up four flights of stairs and began our preparations.
I was , to say the least, a bit skeptical about the prospects. A chicken? On New Year’s Eve? But the final product was one of the most delectable meals of my life. As for the chicken recipe, I have made it hundreds of times, with a little variation here and there, and served it to great relish and satiation. It is a winter dish, but I present it today at the request of my daughter, T., who loves it more than anything else in my limited culinary offerings.
It’s always the ingredients that make for a great dish, and the chicken has to be of the highest quality, which is often hard to find on these shores. If it’s too fat, the whole dish will have that over-saturated quality to it; if it’s too slim, the poor animal will not hold your attention much the less stimulate your taste buds.
American chickens are notoriously fat, so choose carefully. If this dish is for a special occasion, you may want to buy the more pricey, less generic, chicken from, say, Bell and Evans or some brand with a French name. If it is for an everyday meal, just make sure you’re not buying fat instead of chicken.
Wash the bird thoroughly, inside and outside. Remove the inside little pack. If you want a very tasty chicken do the following. Fill a large bowl with cold water, add a few tablespoons of floor, some salt and pepper, and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice. Put the chicken in this bowl for about an hour, then remove and wash the chicken well with cold water and dry it.
Have the oven at around 500. Put the chicken in a big, deep baking pan. (You can use a Dutch Oven, too). Tuck the legs under the breasts so the poor thing sits nice and snug in the middle, with its back up. Put a few dabs of butter on various parts of the chicken’s body, then place the pan in the oven. This is the roasting phase. Let it roast until the skin is a gold color. Cut up some onions, add salt and pepper and two or so tablespoons of water. Lower the temperature to 375, cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for 45 minutes or so. If you want a fancier version, you can add carrots, leeks and potatoes, as well as rosemary or an herb of your choice. Instead of the water, you can add white wine.
Move the cooked chicken to a serving dish, with the juices. Surround it with the cooked vegetables. Serve with a green salad, basmati rice topped with pine nuts and cranberries or currants, and some good bread.
There are many chicken recipes in this world, but this one is one of the very best, many New Year’s Eve dinners since then, but that one was one of the most enjoyable and simplest. We whiled the night away drinking and singing (our host H. played the guitar) and watching the merriment outside.
Yes, small joys, worth a lot…