I have a love/hate relationship with Texas summers. The hate part – it’s not even July yet and we’re already dealing with near-100 degree temps. I’m not ready yet for the heat. You would think, after spending my entire life in Texas, I would get used to it, but I never do. I simply wish I had a swimming pool in our backyard so I could spend my days lazily relaxing in the cool water. Until then, I retreat to the cool A/C in our house and hope October arrives soon.
Then there’s the love part. What’s to love? The farmer’s markets are overflowing with so much bounty, I feel like it’s Christmas! There are squashes galore, onions, beets, blackeyed peas, herbs, and even the tomatoes are beginning to arrive with regularity. I have to exercise control when I visit, so that I don’t purchase more than I can handle, but boy, it’s a treat!
One of my new favorite vendors at the McKinney Farmer’s Market, though, is not a farmer. You see, there is a little ranch not too terribly far from me called Rehoboth Ranch. Rehoboth Ranch raises grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured poultry and Berkshire pork, without antibiotics or other drugs, without growth hormones, without chemicals. There are no confinement houses for any of the animals, and the beef and lamb are never fed grain. These are happy animals, folks. And happy animals mean happier (’cause the meat is so delicious!), healthier people. The quality of the meat and poultry that comes from Rehoboth Ranch is simply superb. On Saturday, I purchased a fresh chicken.
How do you prepare superb chicken? This is the time that simplicity is key. You don’t need to season with a lot of complex spices, and you don’t need a heavy sauce. Pastured, happy chicken such as this is tender and flavorful without much adornment. So, as much as I realize I have already posted a recipe on roast chicken, I think I need to share one that is simpler, but perhaps even more tasty. This recipe is perfect for a premium chicken such as the one I had on hand. It takes virtually no time to prepare before throwing in the oven. And the flavor? Unbeatable. The skin turns out so perfectly salty and crisp, and the bird is incredibly juicy. (Whatever you do, please don’t throw away the skin. I don’t care that you’re on a diet, this is the best part!) Since I have the oven on already, I usually roast some fresh squash or zucchini to serve on the side. (I manage to squeeze in a small dish alongside the chicken!) With very little work, a perfect dinner is served. And it was well worth heating up the kitchen, even in the summertime!
What you’ll need:
1 chicken, preferably naturally raised
salt and pepper
2-3 sprigs rosemary, broken into small 1-2 inch pieces (you could also use a different herb, such as thyme or sage, if you choose)
To prepare the chicken for roasting:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Do a thorough job, as water will only steam the chicken, and you won’t get a crispy skin. Season all over with salt and pepper, seasoning a bit more on the fleshiest parts, such as the breasts and thighs. Place rosemary sprigs all over chicken, gently patting them so that they “stick” to the skin. If you have extra sprigs, you’re welcome to throw them in the cavity at this point. Truss the legs, and tuck the wings under.
Place the chicken on a roasting pan, with a rack, breast-side up. (if you don’t have a rack, you can place the chicken atop some celery and carrot sticks, just so long as the chicken has the opportunity to get some air underneath it. More air underneath chicken = more even browning and more crispy, delicious skin.) Place in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until skin is browned. Turn oven down to 375 degrees, and continue roasting until juices run clear, about another 30-45 minutes or so. Check it regularly as it’s nearing done, you don’t want to overcook the bird, or the breast will be dry. Remove the chicken from the oven.
Rest the chicken for 15 minutes, tented with foil. Carve and serve.
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