Three Possible Titles: (1) Sunday Night Chicken; (2) Cooking For The Week Ahead; (3) Roast Chicken with Million Dollar Gravy and Arborio Rice Salad
Titling these posts takes effort. So you can pick which one you like the best. All three are appropriate. (Especially the last one–it makes a topical Oscar reference. I’m glad Million Dollar Gravy swept the oscars!)
Cooking a Sunday night dinner is a good idea. Many cultures build rituals around it. Like Italians. They have Sunday night gravy. They know cooking dinner Sunday night is a good idea.
Here’s why: whatever leftovers you have, you can eat for the rest of the week. (Or at least the first part of the week.)
And, pulling in from another source, I read (I think in Nigel Slater’s Appetite) that the best thing you can make in terms of stretching it over the week is a roast chicken. I have to agree with him. I definitely have enough for two more meals and even after that I’m going to save the bones for stock. Yes, Amateur Gourmet readers, very soon your beloved AG is going to make stock.
But first the chicken. Admire this chicken, don’t you want to eat it?
I used the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe. This recipe is fantastic. Here’s what you do. Buy a chicken. Rinse it inside and out and then pat it dry. Thomas Kellar in his Bouchon book says to put a lot of effort into patting it dry—you want to avoid steam in the oven. After that, sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper. “Be liberal!” says the Contesa. Then stuff that cavity with a bunch of Thyme, a head of garlic (a whole head) sliced on the equator, and a lemon cut in half. After that, melt 2 Tbs of butter and paint that on the chicken with a brush. Apply salt and pepper all over the chicken (be liberal, again!) and then tie the legs together. Put in a roasting pan and roast at 425 degrees for 90 minutes or “until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh.” This time, actually, I used a meat thermometer and it worked really well. The arrow rose to “poultry” and I knew it was time to come out of the oven.
Now here’s the part that’s spectacular. Return to that pic above. What do you see next to that chicken? A tiny bowl, right? Well that’s the Million Dollar Gravy. A brief spiel on gravy.
I hate gravy. I’ve always hated gravy. I never accept the gravy boat at Thanksgiving, in fact, if I had any control over it, I’d sink the gravy boat. (Sorry, after writing that sentence, I regret it, but I’m not going to delete it.) I just don’t like gravy. It’s gooey and thick and messy and unpleasant.
However, with that said, after making this gravy I’m a gravy convert. This gravy is delicious. It tastes like all those delicious brown crunchy bits you savor when you eat a roasted chicken. It’s like liquid chicken skin. Here’s how you make it:
So take the roasting pan after you remove the chicken from it and pour out the chicken fat into a bowl. (This is called “shmlatz” in Jew world.) There will be brown bits on the bottom of the pan—don’t lose these! Put the roasting pan on the stove, turn up the heat, and add 1 cup of chicken stock. “Cook on high heat for 5 minutes until reduced scraping bottom of the pan.” Once that happens, combine the 2 Tbs of chicken fat with 2 Tbs of flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour.
Now when I did this, everything got crazy thick really fast. So when the time came to do the next step–strain into a small sauce pan–there was very little gravy and it wouldn’t go through the strainer. So I returned it to the roasting pan and added more chicken broth. I boiled it together and then just poured it into the bowl you see above. Honestly, that’s fine. It tastes so good. Especially if you follow this recipe, it tastes like brown chicken bits with lemon and garlic and thyme. All together now, k? Mmmmmm.
But I did not serve this chicken alone. With it, I made Amanda Hesser’s Arborio rice salad. I am really happy with this salad as a chicken accompaniment. It’s also really easy. But first, a picture:
I’m doing all this from memory, but that’s good because if I put it in my own words it’s not illegal!
So bring a big pot of water to boil. Add enough salt so you tatse the salt but it shouldn’t be salty. (That’s Hesser’s instruction, not mine.) Add 2 cups of the Arborio rice and stir stir stir. You can walk away a bit but come back and stir. The instruction is to cook until it’s chewy but not gummy. The thing is they don’t give you an approximate cooking time. In my mind, it took about 5 minutes. But I did a lot of tasting while I stirred. I tasted every few minutes or so and I suggest you do the same. Eventually, the rice won’t be crunchy, it will be chewy. Once you get there, pour it into a strainer and then from the strainer into a large bowl.
In that bowl, immediately pour 3 Tbs of olive oil over the rice, and 3 Tbs of red wine vinegar. Then zest a lemon over the bowl and grind some pepper over it. Use a spatula and distribute the rice around. You should let it sit for an hour. Go watch the Oscars like I did. You can do this while your chicken’s in the oven. If you start right when you put the chicken in, you’ll have a 30 minute window to do this salad leaving 60 minutes for the flavors to meld.
You should come back every so often and shift things around with the spatula. You should taste ample samples like I did because it’s delicious.
Now, eventually, take 1/3rd of a cup of pine nuts (ok, she calls for 1/4th a cup but I used 1/3rd a cup) and toast them in the oven. Put them on a baking sheet and just put them in with the chicken. They’ll only be in there 4 or 5 minute before they turn brown. Take them out! Add them to the salad! You’re done.
This rice salad’s delicious. I’ve never had a rice salad before, but this one is surely a winner. And with the chicken and the gravy it’s perfect. It all goes together like frick and frack, like Laverne and Shirley. Actually, it’s a threesome—so Moe, Curly and Larry; or Brad, Jen and Angelina Jolie.
What’s great is now I have a ton of rice salad and a huge half of a chicken to eat tomorrow night and the next night and the next night. Did I mention that this salad and the chicken regenerates in the fridge? It’s alive, it’s alive! But seriously, it’s a good Sunday night dinner. I am happy with it.