It was harder to find a recipe for roasted chicken than I’d expected, I guess because it’s barely a recipe at all.  You rub a chicken with some oil and garlic, stuff an onion in the cavity, and pop it in the oven for a couple of hours.  In theory, it’s so easy that any idiot can do it unless, it would seem, that idiot is me.  The first time I tried to roast a chicken, something terrible happened, and the skin was charred black, while the inside was raw and pink.  The second time, I accidentally roasted the chicken breast-side down, so it didn’t brown, and on top of that, I had the same problem where I just couldn’t get it to cook all the way through.

This time, I vowed, would be different.

So, I turned to the Junior League of Houston’s Stop and Smell the Rosemary:  Recipes and Traditions to Remember (1996) for answers, and to the internets, for many pictures of breast-side up chickens.

Herb Roasted Chicken

The resting part, it would seem, is important.

1 large whole chicken (4 pounds)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 t. chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 t. salt
1 T. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water. Remove pockets of fat just inside chest cavity. Pat dry.

Blend garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, pepper, salt and olive oil to make an herb paste. Rub herb paste over chicken and under skin.

There is something perverse about a raw chicken with its legs trussed. There is also something perverse about rubbing an herb paste under something's skin.

Roast, breast side up, 20 minutes. Turn and roast another 20 minutes. Turn again and roast another 35 minutes. Remove chicken from oven. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes prior to carving. Serve chicken au jus with crusty bread.

Serves 4

The smallest whole chicken I could find at the grocery store was over 5 pounds, so I added about 10 minutes to each section of the roasting time, and made sure to rest it for the entire 15 minutes.  I held my breath as I sliced down the breastbone, and let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw that the chicken was not pink inside, and in fact, looked pretty much like it was supposed to.  Though the recipe doesn’t say to, I also stuffed half an onion in the cavity before roasting.

For a side dish, I decided to try something I’d never eaten before – parsnips.  When I was little, my favorite book was The Owlstone Crown by X.J. Kennedy, and in it, the main characters are two orphans whose foster parents, the Grimbles, force them to farm parsnips, which they use to make a quack patent medicine, Grimble’s Parsnip Punch, “the sweetheart of 70,000 sufferers.”  I probably read this book 50 times, and as a result, developed an aversion to parsnips, although I’d never tried one.  The book was rather vivid on the disgustingness of parsnips.  However, as it turns out, they’re not half-bad.

Whipped Carrots and Parsnips

Whipped Carrots and Parsnips

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into pieces
freshly grated nutmeg
salt
freshly ground pepper

Place carrots in a large pot of boiling salted water. Lower heat, cover partially, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in parsnips. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Return vegetables to pot. Stir over medium heat until excess moisture has evaporated. Puree vegetables and butter in a food processor until smooth. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Serve warm.

This dish can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Warm over low heat, stirring often. Serves 8.

The parsnips have a strong, almost spicy flavor that is set off nicely by the sweetness of the carrots.  Even Timothy and Verity Tibb, the heroes of The Owlstone Crown, might have liked it.

It is, in any case, very nice with roasted chicken and toasted olive bread.

Success: tastes like chicken.

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