This week is another guest recipe, this time from longtime friend Megan Barr. While I grew up vaguely knowing her family our paths did not cross until the summer of 2012 when I became garden intern at Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD where she and her husband Joel were garden managers. Megan is an amazing person, she is honest, she's the real deal, and she's not going to hide behind some mask or fake it. She's raising a family and starting a farm in Minnestota with her husband Joel and their children. She's an amazing cook and like minded in so many areas, particularly when it comes to salt and butter! Here's a recipe from her that I can't wait to try out myself!
Fall and winter is the time our oven becomes fully employed again. Instead of strategizing my meals to avoid the use of the oven, I now strategize my meals to include the oven, as it provides an additional source of warmth for our little house.
With the waning of the daylight our exterior work ends and our interior work begins. We generally welcome this change, but not without mourning the loss of being in the carnality of our bodies as they work close to the earth. In the winter we seek to fulfill this void and to bolster ourselves against the dark days and cold nights by looking to our meals to sustain us in deeper more spiritual ways. Anything roasted helps deliver this kind of soul nourishing for us. And so I offer you my absolute favorite way to roast a chicken.
As a farmer who participates in the raising and slaughtering of 500 broilers a year, It's hard for me to get excited about chicken. I will not order it if I go to a restaurant. I have tried many many many different ways to cook chicken. I constantly sought the grail of roast chicken-one with crispy skin, a juicy interior, and thoroughly full of flavor. Too many times I ended up disappointed with dry, undercooked, bland, complicated, or just boring chicken. I almost gave up on the roast chicken as a cooking method and was prepared to braise it forever. Until I stumbled upon this cooking technique, parsed out in the brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. This one is perfect, and simple, and looks just smashing (sp)layed out on the table in the cast iron pan which it was cooked.
The simplicity of this recipe kills me. Salt. Chicken. Technique. Done. But these are the kind of recipes and the ways of cooking that ring true to me. They fit into my own philosophy on food which only became more complete after I started farming.
Here are its elements:
1. Food raised in its best conditions with the optimal nutrients will be its best self
2. Food that is its best self already HAS an identity and hardly needs flavor manipulation.
3. But the food can benefit from and become even more itself by the cook's THOROUGH knowledge of it as she adds technique to it.
Look over the techniques in the recipe. They display a knowledge of the chicken's nature. The overnight uncovered air chill dries out the skin which makes it crispy. The dry brine distributes salt and moisture throughout the bird, ensuring a juicy flesh when cooked. The removal of the backbone makes sure all parts get cooked evenly. It's brilliant. Get yourself a well-raised chicken and try this out. You will not be disappointed.
Here is the non-recipe:
1.The night before you plan on roasting your chicken, remove its backbone (called spatchcocking, or butterflying). If you don't know how to do this, all it takes is a sharp knife and some willingness to manhandle raw chicken. I will let google or your butcher show you how to do this as I don't want to take up space in this post.
2. Place chicken, breast side down on a cutting board and push down on the breastbone firmly until the chicken is flat. Generously season the bird with salt on both sides. Place, breast side up, on a roasting dish and refrigerate uncovered, overnight.
3. One hour before you plan to roast the bird, pull the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and adjust the oven rack to be in the middle.
5. In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, add just enough oil of your choice to coat the bottom. Heat on medium high. As soon as the oil is shimmering, add the whole chicken, breast side down. Brown for about 8 minutes, then flip over and brown on the other side for another 5 minutes or so.
6. Transfer the skillet to the heated oven. SLide it to the back with the handle facing left. Roast 20 minutes.
7. After 20 minutes, turn the skillet 180 degrees so that the handle is pointing right. Keep the pan in the back of the oven. Roast another 30-45 minutes, until the chicken is brown all over and the juices run clear. Remove the skillet from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes until carving it.
This chicken needs only the crustiest bread you can get your hands on, the freshest butter, and the simplest scantily dressed greens salad. A nice pinot noir would take the dish to stellar heights. Enjoy!
Megan Barr, from Abraham's Table Farm