Monday, January 26, 2009

Whole Raw Chicken: A Rite of Passage

Raising four kids, my mom was Master of the Chicken. I can't remember a week that didn't involve me eating a chicken part of some kind, and most of my childhood memories are infused with the aroma of boiling livers on the back burner. (Being the days of pre-cholesterol awareness, my parents actually paid us to eat them! The abuse we suffered.)

So, as I have made my own way into adulthood and now into motherhood, I always knew I could count myself as a "real woman" when I mastered The Chicken. I quickly discovered that chicken breasts are a breeze, but every time I encountered an entire bird in the poultry aisle, it always looked so...well, chickeny. I prefer denial when I eat my meats. If it looks like it might bock at me, I shy away.

But, in these economic times, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and so one day in Walmart, feeling brave, I put a couple whole birds in my cart. Actually, to be accurate, I put them in produce bags in my cart. They looked like they might ooze something onto my hotdog buns.

I took home my little featherless friends and after scouring, Barefoot in Paris and Southern Living, I came across a winning combination. What joy!

Here it is, my passage into womanhood, my recipe for a WHOLE chicken!

1 3-5 pound chicken (devoid of gross inner parts)
olive oil
1 lemon
fresh or dried thyme
lemon pepper
1 whole onion

Preheat oven to 400. Rinse chicken inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Arrange breast-side up in lightly greased dish (13x9x2). Tuck wings under and tie legs together with kitchen twine, if desired. (It tastes the same spread eagle.)

Rub outside with olive oil. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice all over chicken, including inside cavity. Put lemon halves into cavity.

Rub (or put sprigs of) thyme under chicken skin on breast meat. Sprinkle more thyme on chicken, including legs and wings. Sprinkle thyme (or put sprigs) inside cavity. Sprinkle lemon pepper all over outside.

Slice onion into skinny wedges. Separate onions, sprinkling in pan around chicken and tuck a few inside cavity. Slide several onion slivers under skin on breasts, too.

(You can also put potato wedges and carrot slices in the pan to bake with the onions: a one-pot wonder!)

Bake for about 18-20 minutes per pound. Check for doneness: when juice runs clear when a knife is inserted between body and leg and when meat is white throughout depth of breast.

Not only does this chicken taste unbelievably good, but it's like a really yummy aromatherapy session while it's baking. (Yes, I just totally set myself up for a Jeff Foxworthy one-liner.)

Welcome to womanhood!

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