Roasted Chicken and a Robbery
And just like that, I’m back in Paris.
I know, I had just arrived in Nice when I posted, and I had been intending to stay for at least another month. So what caused my precipitous departure from the French Riviera?
My apartment was robbed.
It happened while I was out at a café, leeching off their wifi and posting about salmon. I came home and saw that drawers were open and things seemed messier than how I’d left them… and the windows were all open… and the closets had been rifled through… and there were muddy boot prints leading from the tiny window in the bathroom, which I saw now had a broken latch.
On the one hand, I was grateful that I wasn’t home when the break-in happened. Intellectually, I knew that the last thing a robber wants is for residents to be home when he’s about his thievery. On the other hand, I was still scared. Scared that whomever it was would come back for more (since I’d taken almost all of my electronics — anything of decent value — with me), and this time I’d be around for them to hurt. I called the gentleman and the friend from whom I was renting the apartment, packed up my things, and found a hotel room. Only after I got into the room did I see that my mascara had run and I looked like the star of a bad 90’s music video featuring a pop star with a no-good cheating boyfriend.
I felt violated. I had started to make a home for myself there, albeit a temporary one, and good homes are extensions of ourselves. I had even roasted a chicken in the kitchen the day before. Is there anything more homey than roasting a chicken on an Sunday?
So now I’m back, sooner than expected, trying to create some normality around me. Maybe I’ll roast another chicken tomorrow.
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
Makes 1 chicken.
1 chicken, around 3 pounds
6 2-inch sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed with a knife
Remove any extraneous matter (gizzards, lumps of fat) from inside your chicken and save for stock. Pat the skin and inside cavity completely dry with paper towels.
Starting from the edge of the cavity, work your fingers under the skin of the breasts, making two pockets. Do the same to the skin on the thighs. Shove some herb sprigs into the pockets, as far as you can get them without tearing skin.
Liberally salt and pepper the chicken, all over the skin and inside the cavity. If you have time, place the chicken in a baking dish, cover it loosely, and let it rest in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can roast immediately after salting, but the chicken is much more flavorful and moist when allowed to dry-brine in this manner for a couple days. A shipping refrigerator container is needed if you are carrying the ingredients along.
When you’re ready to roast, heat your oven to 475°F (250°C) and place a cast iron (or other heavy, oven-safe) skillet over medium heat on the stove.
Remove your chicken from the refrigerator and stuff the cavity with the garlic, onion, and lemon. Pat very dry with a paper towel one more time. Truss the chicken if you like; I usually just tie the legs together because I like the wings to get really crispy.
Place the chicken breast-side up in the skillet and immediately transfer to the hot oven. After 30 minutes, flip the bird breast-side down. Roast for another 15-20 minutes, then flip again breast-side up. Finish roasting for 5-10 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and the skillet, placing it on a plate or carving board to rest for about 10 minutes. (If you like, make a pan sauce with the leftover bits and juices in the skillet, or you can save them for making stock with the bones.) Carve and serve.
Music to cook by: Nothing Was Stolen [Phosphorescent // Here’s To Taking It Easy]