A Perfect Sunday Lunch

August 16, 2009

I cooked a raucously delicious Sunday dinner for some friends after church the other day. The setting was our friend Alan’s apartment, overlooking Gramercy Park, and we had our meal looking out over the lovely garden.  I’m not usually privy to such gorgeous views, so I must say, I felt rather fine being able to serve Sunday dinner in such a location. It rained during the afternoon so the cool sweet air blowing in from the balconies made the kitchen bearable and our lunch all the more pleasant.

The great thing about roast chicken is that it is so darned easy to make, and is always a crowd pleaser, even for the pickiest of people (ahem Thomas). In a matter of an hour the two chickens were stuffed with fresh herbs from my garden and lots of garlic, lemon and good sea salt, and tucked away into the oven along with the side dish: a  quick courgette pie made with  a giant zucchini (about the size of my arm!) that I’d harvested the day before. (Just you wait until I take you to see my community garden plot. You’ll be amazed at what the Brooklyn soil can do with just a bit of coaxing, compost, and attention) The courgette pie baked in the upper part of the oven while the chicken roasted. With a green salad and some chilled white wine we were in business. And I had time to sit and socialize with everyone while lunch cooked itself.

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Huy had brought a tasty home made apple pie for dessert and we did our best by that as well…

Herb Roast Chicken
One 3-4lb freerange, certified humane, kosher or organic chicken (farmers market, Bell and Evans, Murrays, or anything decent.)
Medium bunch each of fresh oregano, sage, and thyme
6 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ a lemon cut into 8 wedges, keep the other half for basting.
2-3 teaspoons of sea salt
12 whole black peppercorns

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse chicken (or not) and pat dry. If using a glass baking dish (9” pie dish works fine) rub about a teaspoon of olive oil into the pan. Rub a heaping teaspoon of salt into the central cavity of the chicken and sprinkle in the peppercorns. Put in 2 wedges of lemon, about 1 clove of garlic, several sprigs of thyme, oregano and sage. Repeat lemon, garlic, and herbs until the cavity is full. Really, just pack it in there. Save equivalent of one garlic clove and a couple sprigs each of the herbs.
Rub the entire outside of the chicken with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 heaping tsp of salt. Gently loosen skin over the breast and along the thighs and at the neck and slip in a couple slivers of garlic, a bit of butter, and some sprigs of thyme and oregano. In the neck cavity, pack in some chopped sage. . Place the chicken in the pan. Sprinkle any remaining thyme leaves over the bird, grate some fresh pepper, and drizzle the remaining oil. Roast uncovered for ½ hour at 400 then reduce temperature to 375 and roast another 45 – 60 minutes until a fork poked into the thigh produces clear juices and you can see juices bubbling in the cavity. Baste with pan juices and a squeeze of lemon every 15 minutes while roasting.
Remove from oven and set chicken on serving platter to rest. Prick chicken lightly all over with a fork and pour pan juices slowly over the chicken. (Or serve juices in a side dish).

ps. You can add in rosemary as a fresh herb too. Or if you don’t have herbs, substitute all of that for a large bunch of parsley. Omit the herbs beneath the skin and just sprinkle with dried thyme or herbs de provence.

For the courgette pie, you need a very large zucchini, a tablespoon of butter, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, about 6-8 garlic cloves (minced), one small onion (sliced) and generous amounts of fresh herbs (same ones used for the chicken). Slather a bit of olive oil into the pan. Sprinkle in some onions, a layer of sliced zucchini, some dots of butter, some of the minced garlic, some fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Repeat this a couple of times till you’ve used up your zucchini. Finish with herbs and onions and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake in upper part of oven for an hour. Remove from oven, grate a bit of parmesan over the top and put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until it browns up and some of the vegetable juice dries up.

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