Monday, October 31, 2011

Friggin' Delicious Roast Chicken

This story ran on Patch yesterday. Because of the massive snowstorm that landed in New Jersey, it spent about a nano-second on the site, and was whisked away by stories about the power outage, trees that had fallen down and schools that were closing. Even the mall closed, which was shocking. But crazy, unexpected weather or not, you still have to eat and if you have power, you may actually feel like turning on the oven. This recipe is fantastic and so is the cookbook it came from. If you're house-bound today and have the ingredients, make this jalapeno mustard roast chicken. It takes all day to marinate so is perfect for a day when you're wondering how you're going to get through it. Not only is this jalapeno chicken one of the best dishes I've ever eaten, it's easy. And it stimulates feelings of love: Whoever eats it will fall all over you.

We aren't trick-or-treating this year because of all the scary-looking tree branches that are either blocking the roads or hanging over them, and because my kids are (thankfully) kind of getting too old, but if you are in a warmer clime and plan to go out, happy Halloween!

Sunday Night Supper: Kid-Tested Jalapeno Mustard Roast Chicken

Even the kids agree: It's the best roast chicken, ever. Really.
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I spend too much money on books, particularly cookbooks, which are usually hard-covered and filled with beautiful, colored pictures. If I don't cook from them right away, I never cook from them and then they sit like expensive art books on the shelf. A few weeks ago, I bought Lisa Fain's cookbook, The Homesick Texan, and was determined to get my money's worth from it. (The book lists for $29 and Amazon sells it for $17.59.)
Ever since that book landed on my doorstep, I've been reading Fain's poignant and vivid essays about growing up Texan. Because most of her recipes aren't all that complicated, I've actually been cooking from the dang thing.
This week, I decided to make her jalapeno mustard chicken, which calls for honey, yellow mustard, lime juice, ginger, garlic, cumin, jalapeno and cilantro. I'll just admit right now, I'm a cilantro junkie. It makes me high and I look for reasons to smell, chop and eat it. Fain writes that she made this recipe, which calls for a half cup of cilantro, for her friend who was homesick for Texas. Her friend said it was the best roast chicken she ever ate. The only problem is that Fain recommends that the chicken sit in its marinade for eight hours. That's a long shift. But the marinade isn't hard to make - you dump a bunch of ingredients in the food processor, cover the chicken with it and go about your day. The main ingredients are cheap and easy enough to buy and keep in your fridge until you're ready to use them, so you just have to make this recipe on a day when you'll have time in the morning to think about what you'll be eating that night.
For me, yesterday was that day. The night before, I took a roasting chicken out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to defrost. Unfortunately, I hadn't bothered to look at how much it weighed. It was over seven pounds and the recipe called for a 3-4 pound roaster. Fortunately, I had enough cilantro, honey, mustard and garlic cloves to double the marinade. The chicken was $1.99/pound. If we had leftovers, so what? Two points to Mom for making two dinners at once.
Fain says the secret to success for this dish is to butterfly the chicken, remove its spine and lay it flat on a roasting pan, a process she calls spatchcocking. This, she writes, "is just a fancy way to say 'cut out the backbone and lay that bird flat.'' "
If you're from Texas, and you know about hunting, removing the backbone of your dinner probably sounds easy enough to do. But I'm from New Jersey and have never hunted or deboned anything in my life. And the thing about a seven-pound roasting chicken is that it looks like it once had a life. It may be headless but it's the same weight as a new baby, and looks about as helpless. I removed the roaster from its plastic wrap, put it on a cutting board breast side down, stared at it, and couldn't bring myself to remove its spine. It seemed too cruel. So I made the marinade (took about ten minutes), spread it all over the chicken, covered it with plastic wrap, put it in the fridge and went for a walk with my neighbor. I told her about the chicken and my fear of crippling it.
"You should have asked the butcher to do it at the supermarket," she said. Oh yeah, the butcher. I'd forgotten about him. You shouldn't.
Eight hours later, I screwed up my courage, took out a poultry knife and a fork, and cut the spine out of its back. I felt like a hunter, instead of a gatherer, and it felt pretty good. I put the chicken in the oven. The whole house immediately started to smell delicious. Two hours later, it was done. I let the chicken rest a bit, made some pasta, chopped up raw vegetables and called for my kids. It was 5:45. My friend was coming over later that night to have a cup of tea while her daughter took a lacrosse clinic in town, and I had to get my older son to and from the geometry tutor before she arrived. We had to eat quickly. I started to carve the chicken and told my younger son to call for my older son. My older son either didn't hear him or was ignoring him. Finally, I started to yell.
My older son sauntered into the kitchen in his boxer shorts. "I'm not hungry," he said, yawning. "Civilized people don't eat before 6 p.m." If you have a teenager and it's the end of the day, you know they are either famished or up to no good. I glared at him while I carved. "When someone makes you dinner, you sit down and eat it."
My kids started to bicker. I brought the chicken to the table. They dug in. I waited for their reaction.
"Oh my God, this is shamefully delicious," my older son said. "Can you perpetually have a bowl of this sitting in the kitchen? This is friggin' delicious."
"Can you make this every night?" my younger son said. He reached for the platter. "This sauce is amazing. Can I have more?"
Yes, they really said all that. This chicken is the best chicken any of us ever ate. It would have gone well with the frisee salad I meant to serve, but we were so busy gobbling up the chicken that I forgot about that. We finished the meal in great moods. While we were cleaning up, my older son kissed and hugged me. My younger son started to sing. "Laura Fromm, she is the bomb..." Before I sicken you any further, let me just say, this chicken is the bomb. Make it tonight.

Lisa Fain's Jalapeno Mustard Roast Chicken
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1-2 jalapeno chiles, steams and seeds removed, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
6 gloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons honey
Salt, to taste
1 3- to 4- pound chicken

In a food processor, blend mustard, jalapeno, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, ginger, cumin and honey. Add salt if needed.
Rinse chicken and remove giblets. (I cooked them along with the chicken and they were delicious.)
To butterfly the chicken for more even cooking, remove the spine from the back of the chicken with a poultry shears.
Light salt chicken all over. (I used kosher salt), about 1-2 teaspoons.
Take mustard marinade and rub all over chicken, gently lifting skin so you can spread some of it on the meat under the skin. Place coated chicken in a plastic bag or put it on a plate and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for eight hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line cookie sheet with tinfoil
Take chicken out of fridge, lay it flat on sheet, breast side up. Let it sit for 20 minutes before putting it in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour for a 3-4 pound chicken, and about 2 hours for a 7-pound chicken. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to try it...but may just leave the back bone intact!