Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hurricane Relief Dinner

I know, I know - I said that I'd post news of the dinner that my friend Roy & I put on to benefit NY state farmers who were so devastated by Hurricane Irene.   The delay is pure sloth on my part. 
 I keep telling myself that the photos are too ugly to publish, because they were taken with a flash, to make a proper story.  That's a pretty weak excuse.

It had threatened to rain on the Sunday of our dinner, but it didn't.  It was coolish and quite humid and we were able to eat outside.  Whew.  I have more room for entertaining outside than in.
Guests were invited for 6 and they all arrived in and around that time.

Here's what we served:

.    Tunisian Swiss chard tagine cut into little squares
.    Pizza with heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese, and pesto

.    Roasted and faintly smoked (with cherry wood) chickens who were called Mr. Henry and Charlotte before they were sacrificed for our meal.

      This is my go-to roast chicken.  The method - it's not really a recipe - comes from Thomas Keller.  He explains how to do to make "Mon Poulet Roti" - "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" on page xii, in the introduction to his book, "Bouchon" (Artisan, 2004).  
one 2- to 3- pound farm-raised chicken
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (I never put pepper on the chicken)
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out.  The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.
Salt (and pepper) the cavity, then truss the bird.   When you truss the bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out.  Trussing helps the chicken cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.
Now salt the chicken - I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon).
Place the chicken in a saute pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven.  I leave it alone - I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want.  Roast until it's done, 50 - 60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan.  Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Keller goes on to wax rhapsodic about how delicious the chicken is served - after carved - slathered with fresh butter and mustard and how "you'll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it's so good."

He's so right.  The recipe was worth the price of the book.    I use only salt. When I use the oven, I roast the chicken on a cast iron skillet.   When I roast it on the grill - a gas grill - I push the lava rocks to the side and top them with thoroughly soaked fragrant wood. I place a pan, fitted with a rack in the empty space.  Keep a bit of water in the pan (just enough to keep the bottom from burning) - roast until golden and the the thigh temperature is 165 degrees F.   I rarely serve it with butter and mustard.  It really doesn't need much more than a few good side dishes.

.    Sicilian-style potato gratin
.    Ratatouille
.    Stir-fried baby bok choy

.    Cornmeal Cake with early Autumn red wine poached fruits
.    Almond biscotti

Yes, there were leftovers - but not a lot.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  We raised a nice amount of money for GrowNYC 's Hurricane relief fund.  We  ate well and had a nice time.   You can do this too.

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