Marisa’s Chicken: Great Expectations

Who knew that a seemingly straightforward roast chicken dinner could stir up so many emotions? Is it too early for an introspective post? Can blogs jump the shark?

It’s been an unspoken given over the past couple of years that Andy takes care of the chicken. We roast a whole chicken, generally on a Sunday, once every 2-3 months. But this past Sunday it was my job. Self-imposed.

The more I learn about our food system, the more I care about where my food comes from, and the more I care that my kids know where their food comes from.

In 2009, the first year we bought our Thanksgiving turkey from Archie, Clara’s spectrum of thoughts leading up to Thanksgiving were as follows:

T-Day minus 2 weeks: “That’s why I will bring out the plastic turkey. Nobody should eat a real turkey.”

T-Day minus 1.5 weeks: “Is turkey meat? (Yes) OK, I will eat the turkey; just don’t give me the head, mama.”

T-Day (as turkey entered the oven): Singing/taunting/dancing: “Turkey, turkey, turkey we are going to eat you, eat you, eat you.”

We eat less meat than we used to. Finding sources for happier meat has become a bit of a hobby. Recently, our larger animal meat has come from the county fair. Olive and Ethan have fed us well, and hopefully the 4Hers who raised them will be able to buy a couple of college credits with their earnings. Our chickens have come from Andy’s childhood friend’s family, the Stoltenbergs. Calvin and Clara can’t wait for the next visit to their farm.

While we may not be paying gold-plated pricing, I wholeheartedly agree with Alisa’s trepidation in practicing our techniques with recipe-free careless abandon.

Back to this chicken. The last one voluntarily cooked by me.  Even with my ambition to tackle a chicken this month, I still avoided as many of the preparatory steps as I could. I justified it by claiming that thawing the bird in the sink was not a part of roasting. Cutting the skin to make way for the pesto that would be rubbed under it was not a part of roasting. I should have known that the constant sizzling noise that became grating, the haze that filled my throat, and the in and out of the oven well beyond when the bird was “supposed” to be done would lead to some sort of significant self-discovery. January’s roasting project had been all fun and games up until this point.

Dinner is served:


The good news is that we had enough food on Sunday. The chicken never fully cooked under my watch, but Andy thinly sliced what he could and stuck the rest back in the oven. The potatoes, a la Jack Bishop (a birthday gift from Alisa, this cookbook is in my top 5), were great. The spinach salad worked as well. The better news is that Andy made chicken soup today with the bones and their remaining meat. The best news is that we have a pan full of chicken waiting to be turned into chicken salad and maybe even another meal later this week.

I could practice. I don’t like to be unsuccessful. I could replicate and recreate until I’m happy with the results. Instead, I’m leaving the chicken to Andy. I will not consider this a failure, although my needing to justify this in print indicates that I may not actually believe those words. I’m OK with not being completely self-sufficient in the kitchen. A list of Andy’s culinary contributions that I can’t replicate formerly housed only daddy potatoes and now includes roast chicken. And I hope it grows this year. Judging from Monday’s dinner, he will soon be in charge of soup too.

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2 Responses to Marisa’s Chicken: Great Expectations

  1. rcakewalk says:

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to be reading this site! Not only do I enjoy your writing, I enjoy your honesty. I couldn’t roast a chicken to save my soul, I always undercooked. My favorite whole chicken recipe now is in a pot… so many good “recipes” that are adaptable. My most favorite lately is Dorie Greenspan’s with prunes and brandy (to substitute for the armagnac which is not in my budget lately) from Around my French Table. It cooks in a covered pot. So delicious. At least you were able to salvage the bird, and probably get some stock too?! Congratulations on starting this project. I look forward to reading more and to catching up with you soon!

    • Thanks Rebecca! That chicken sounds delicious, and I’ve been meaning to get Around my French Table from the library again. We have chicken pieces in the freezer. I think I can handle a covered pot!

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