If you were a novice mountain climber, would you attempt Everest or Kilimanjaro on your first outing? Perhaps, if you're really ambitious and choose not to think too hard about what you know you don't know. Most people, however, would start with a more manageable ascent.
Novice cooks would be better off following the same principle for Thanksgiving dinner. And yet, just because it's Thanksgiving, many will attempt that giant 25lb frozen gobbler anyway. Start with a "manageable ascent." Our garlic roasted chicken recipe will help you get a feel for the basics of cooking poultry and still leave you with a delicious holiday meal.
1 five-pound roasting chicken*
1 lemon, cut into six wedges
8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half, lengthwise bag baby carrots (16-ounce size)
fresh thyme sprigs
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced from end to end into quarters
1 cup chicken broth (1/2 of a 16-ounce can)
2 teaspoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 to 2 pounds tiny "new" red potatoes
If your grocery doesn't carry tiny potatoes, cut up some red-skinned potatoes into one-inch chunks.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Get out a roasting pan or a large baking pan. Rub some olive oil on the bottom of the pan with a paper towel. Get the lemon, garlic, and onions ready. Wash the potatoes. Remove the neck, etc., from the inside (cavity) of the chicken and throw away. Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water. Lay on paper towels and pat dry. Arrange the carrots in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken on top of the carrots. Stuff the chicken with the lemon wedges, two garlic pieces, and a few sprigs of thyme. Rub some olive oil on the skin of the chicken with a paper towel. Arrange the potatoes and then the onions around the chicken. Cut four slits in the chicken and stick a piece of garlic into each slit. Distribute the rest of the garlic over the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle thyme sprigs over the chicken and potatoes.
2. Bake at 425°F for 30 minutes, then pour the chicken broth over the top of the chicken. Reduce heat to 350°F and roast for 50 to 60 minutes. (The chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170 to 175°F, or when you insert a knife, the juices are clear and not pink.) The chicken will continue to cook a bit more as it rests.
Important: after handling raw meat and meat juices, make sure to wash any surfaces, utensils, or dishes that came in contact with the meat. Wash your hands well with hot, soapy water before touching anything.
3. Set the roasting pan on the counter next to a large platter. Stick a large spoon inside the cavity and tilt the chicken so the lemons and juices spill out into the pan. Put the chicken on the platter and let it rest for about ten minutes while you make the gravy. Arrange the carrots,
potatoes, and onions around the chicken. Cover the platter with foil.
To make gravy, stir the arrowroot flour or cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Put the roasting pan over a burner on medium-high heat and stir until it starts to bubble. Stir in the water mixture and mustard; keep stirring for a minute or so until the gravy thickens. (It won't be very thick gravy.) Place a large strainer over the empty arrowroot flour bowl. From the comer of the pan, slowly and carefully pour the gravy into the strainer. (Use oven mitts; the pan is hot.) When all the gravy has dripped into the bowl, throw out the stuff in the strainer.
4. To carve and serve, first cut the thighs away from the breast, keeping your fingers out -of the way. Next slice the breast into 1/4-inch slices and cut off the wings. Place some chicken on a plate with a few carrots, potatoes, and onions. Ladle some gravy over the entire plate and sprinkle with some fresh thyme leaves if you like.
*Ask the butcher at the meat section of the supermarket for a whole "roasting" chicken, not a "fryer/broiler." We bought a naturally raised chicken (no hormone implants or pesticides used) which tastes better and is better for you. Ask your butcher if he carries them. (Don't be fooled; a "free-range" chicken might not be fed organic feed and allowed to roam free. "Organic" is the key word here.)
(Recipe serves 4)
See Back to Basics: Cooking for Thanksgiving Weekend for more recipes.