Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lemon Roast Chicken with a side of Pesto Potatoes and sublimated rage

There's a terribly Donna Reed-ish image of cooking for others...that it's always a lovely, altruistic effort, whereby the resulting plate of food comforts, brings joy to, or heals the diners. And while this has on occasion been true for me, there's something you (as potential dinner guests) should for others can be a covert act of aggression, or subtle manipulation of emotions. You think I'm just sauteeing and roasting? Oh, honey. A smart cook in the kitchen may be screwing with your head in ways you are blissfully unaware of.

I have cooked and baked for any myriad of reasons and people over the years...for celebration, mourning, sickness, seduction and reconciliation. For those of us who eschew actual verbal communication, food can be an exceptionally deft mechanism for expressing emotion, inducing affection, and just plain old fucking with your head. As the diner, you are so very, very vulnerable. Good manners handcuff your responses, as who in their right mind will bitch about anything made in their honor? And that, my friend, is where you are utterly at the mercy of She Who Wields the Chef's Knife.

Even when it's with the very best, most benevolent of motivations, my actions in the kitchen are almost always intended to elicit a response from the recepients. That can be great, when it's your birthday, and quite frankly, everyone wants cake. Or if you're an oozing, wheezing sack of sickness, and soup is all the stands between you and an untimely demise. I can't believe, however, that I'm the only cook who has ever stood over a sautee pan and thought something along the lines of, "Go fuck yourself, you doughy, pretentious asshole!". Or maybe that really is just me. If for mysterious reasons (so mysterious, in fact, that you may have no awareness of them whatsovever) I have put you on my shit list, you should really look closely at your plate. I would never (I don't think) include something that would induce anaphylactic shock, but I will include those olives you hate, or make that Turkey Tamale Pot Pie you are thoroughly sick of, and do so with a well acted, happy oblivion.

You may ask yourself why the hell any sane person would elect to be so passively aggressively bitchy with an entree. To which I will respond that A) never presume sanity, and B) I'm a WASP, and we tend to prefer to bury our rage behind broccoli rabe whenever possible.

All of this being there any "safe" dish? What IS the Switzerland of dinners? For me, I suppose it would have to be some permutation of roast chicken. It's delightfully easy to prepare, cheap, makes your house smell wonderful, and is almost universally enjoyed. (Ok, if you have a known vegetarian coming over and you make it anyway, you probably ought to bring up your anger issues in therapy, but that's your choice.) It was the first thing I ever made in my house while there were still cardboard boxes strewn all over, because I could not, for one more minute, stand eating take out. It takes the barest amount of utensils, zero skill, and is pretty hard to screw up. It soothes me, makes enough leftovers for at least two meals, and if one is especially militant, can be made into stock at the very end. Or, more likely, it will result in a carcass entombed in foil in the back of your fridge until you finally give up on your dreams of home made stock. Whatever. Sally forth, I say!

Lemon Roast Chicken


1 (4-5 lb) whole chicken

3 small or 2 medium yellow onions, sliced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 lemons, quartered

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  • Take the bag of mystery innards out of the chicken and wash it inside and out.

  • Toss the onions with a little olive oil in a roasting pan. Place the chicken on top of the onions. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Stuff the lemon quarters into indelicate regions of the chicken, and scatter the rest amidst the onions.

  • Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions will likely burn, but I promise you, they'll be delicious, and if you mop them up with some decent bread, you'll be very happy.)

Tonight, I made this with mashed potatoes, for which I think you may not need a recipe. (If you do, let me know, otherwise, just make mashed potatoes as you normally would.) I glopped in about a half cup of leftover pesto into the finished potatoes, just to liven them up a bit.

3-4 servings.

So there you have it...just about the most neutral dinner I know how to make. Look carefully at your wine pairings, never know the troubles that could lie in your glass...

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