It's Valentine's day, and for the past few years we've had an "I love you" party at our house. Not really a party in the typical sense of the word, but we call it that because the boys love parties. It's really more of a dinner. I decorate with red and pink hearts on the windows, light candles, make a special dinner and give everyone little presents and cards. It makes it really special. We always invite my wonderful aunt Kathy (her husband passed away 6 years ago) and just enjoy a quiet but festive night at home. Sure beats trying to go out to a packed restaurant.
In years past, I've made pasta dishes with salad, wine, etc.
This year I wanted something different. We're having "Mitford" roasted chicken. If you've been fortunate enough to read the Mitford series of books, you know food is a big part of life in Mitford. If you have even an ounce of Southern blood in you, you will have a physical craving for the foods they consume in Mitford. The roasted chicken recipe hails from the Mitford cookbook. I've been making it for several years now, but after talking with my friend, Kara, about how she does her roasted chicken, I decided to try her way as well. This is what I did:
I brined a kosher organic whole roasting chicken for about 7 hours today. Don't let the word brining scare you. Basically, I just "soaked" the whole chicken in a pot with salted water in the fridge. Did it this morning before I headed out. Do a google search on Brining to learn more about it. It's just a way to keep your meat juicy and flavorful. You can skip this step, but it's really not that hard to do and the results are wonderful. And don't let the 7 hour thing scare you either. You can brine it for as less as 3 hours if that's all the time you have.
I always roast my chicken with some veggies, so I had an array of fingerling potatoes (whole, not cut up since they're small), carrots, celery, and onion wedges ready. This is where I did things differently. I used my Pampered Chef stoneware bunt pan and arranged the veggies in the pan itself. Traditionally, I've put the chicken in a big cast iron skillet or a roasting pan and arranged the veggies around it. According to Kara, when you put the chicken on the bunt pan (plopping it over that middle part of the pan) the chicken gets roasted all the way around and the juices just run down into the veggies making them super tasty.
When I was ready to start roasting the chicken, I dried the chicken off, rubbed it generously with olive oil and a few crushed garlic cloves. Then I shoved lemon slices into the cavity of the chicken (about two lemons) as well as about 5 garlic cloves and a few sprigs of rosemary. Just under the skin of the breast, I also slid in a few more garlic cloves and about 4 more lemon slices and more rosemary.
I took the chicken and slid it neck side down just right onto the middle raised part of the bundt pan. I gave it a few more rubs of olive oil and a sprinkle of TJ's 31 seasonings salute.
See how the little buddy's legs were falling down? I tied them up with some twine to keep them in place.
Off the little buddy goes into the 425 degree oven.
After 30 minutes at 425, I turned down the heat to 350 and rotated the pan about a fourth of the way around. The kitchen was already smelling great after 30 minutes. It only gets better!
Here's Wyatt waiting at the table for dinner to start. We kept telling him it would be awhile, but that boy was ready. Funny thing is, though, he doesn't eat. He's terribly picky.
O.K...back to the chicken. After the 30 minutes at 425, the chicken stayed in the oven an additional hour and 15 to 25 minutes at 350, making the total cooking time just under 2 hours. Every 20 minutes or so, I'd rotate the chicken a little and stir the veggies around a bit to make sure they were all evenly coated. The buddy in the oven would tilt over a little, but I'd just try to even him out as best I could.
While he was roasting away, I also threw together a box of TJ's cornbread mix, lima beans, and sweet potato patties topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, and of course...butter.
Hey...it's Valentine's day. There's no love more sincere than the love of food. This meal is designed to warm heart and soul...not keep your waist trim. I'll worry about that tomorrow.
So, once the chicken was all done, I let him rest out of the oven for a bit. I've always heard it's important to let meat sit for a bit to keep it juicy. This is how he looked all roasted.
Don't let that dark brown circle throw you off. Just under the skin there is a nice lemon slice and the browness is from the sugars carmalizing into the skin. Not pretty, I know, but I cut it all up anyway.
I wish I had a good pic of all the veggies and chicken arranged on the platter. Don't know if you can get a good view from these pics. It really was a nice presentation.
There's Kathy in the background...
And me and the boys...
Now...the big taste test...it was simply amazing! I think it was the best roasted chicken I've made in my life (THANK YOU KARA!!). The flavors of the rosemary, lemon, and garlic all came through into the meat. And the veggies...SO very delicious!
We enjoyed every bite. I really think this was one of the top meals I've made, and really not all that difficult!
As they say in Mitford...I put a good Cabernet behind it. We finished our meal with slices of strawberry cake from Piece of Cake here in Roswell.
One last thing about Valentines...it's always been special because it's my mother's birthday. It was always a big day in my house growing up. I've wanted to make it as special for my kids as well, and hope they feel loved on and see that it's not just a day for mom and dad, but a day to show others how much we love them. I hope they always remember Valentine's with warm memories when they are men. I hope they remember the food, the warmth and smells of the kitchen, the cards, chocolate, and presents on the table, and most of all the sweetness of the day.
And happy 70th birthday to Marlene!