When I make dinner, my goal is usually to make one thing that is special and make everything else simple. This makes the meal feel classier and takes little effort.
A few weeks ago, dear friends of ours came to visit with their four children. We then had six children in the house, ages 8, 7, 6, 5, 5, & 5 as well as four adults.
What do you feed to an active bunch like this?
I decided on roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables which I do not remember and did not photograph, though I am certain I made and served them.
To "fancy" this meal up, I brined the chickens. To do this is quite simple.
RECIPE: Brined Chicken
3/4 cup salt
4 large bay leaves
two bunches of fresh herbs - rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, parsley, thyme, and sage all work well (choose only two)
12 or so whole peppercorns
the juice & zest of 1 lemon (optional)
> put it all into a large pot the day before you need to cook the chicken
> bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, then let it sit there until it cools
> stick it in the fridge to cool further
> ten hours (or so) before dinner, put the chickens into the pot full of brine and pop it back in the fridge
About two hours before dinner, the chickens get lined up on a rack in the roasting pan and get a quick dry with paper towels. The skin crisps up and browns much better when it is not sopping wet upon entry into the oven.
I roast chickens with the breast side down; this way, the breast is prevented from drying out as the fat and juices from the back drain down into the breast meat and remain there, basting the meat.
Roast at 190ºC (375ºF) for an hour or two until the meat thermometer inserted into the chicken breast reads 80ºC (175ºF).
It is important to cover the meat and let it rest 10 or 15 minutes before you cut into it. This allows the meat to cool a little, keeping the steam inside the meat where it will keep the meat moist. While the meat is resting, you can make the gravy.
> scrape all the good bits from the roasting pan into a pot (pour a little boiling water into the pan to help the cooked on bits soften)
> in a measuring cup or jar, mix 2 cups of cold water with two heaped tablespoons of flour, making sure that there are no little clumps of flour
> pour the flour and water mixture into the pot with the pan drippings and turn it to "high heat", stirring all the while
> once the mixture comes to a boil, turn it off and pour through a sieve or strainer before serving
> taste the gravy - if you have brined your chicken, it should be salty enough but may need a little pepper
And just like that, dinner went from being plain to amazing by flavouring the chicken with the herbs and the incredibly tasty gravy that was super simple to pull together.
Do you roast chicken? What is your favourite thing to have with it? Do you make your own gravy?