Forbidden Cookbook: Roasted Chickens with Root Vegetables

In response to Sarah Warburton’s blog posts this week about her family trying to eat more “food-shaped food” (as opposed to processed foods that come in boxes), I wanted to share my favorite roast chicken recipe. It takes a minimal amount of prep work and practically cooks itself, and it’s healthy as well as being delicious. In fact, once I learned how to dry-brine a chicken, it became my default way of preparing whole poultry, because it makes the bird so flavorful and juicy and tender. No more dry chicken!

When we make this recipe, we use two whole birds because Tiny Beowulf can eat half a chicken on his own when he’s hungry. (I wish I were exaggerating, but he’s seven and already bigger than his nine-year-old sister, who’s of at least average height. I’m not hugely tall, but I’m also not completely short, and he comes up to my chin.) But my point is that you can modify the recipe for one chicken. You can also reduce the amount of salt you use for dry-brining, if you wish, especially if you’re seasoning the poultry the day you cook it. You will find the way to your own tastes.

 

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

 

2 whole fresh chickens (minimally processed, or go organic if you can)

chicken broth

kosher or sea salt

lemon pepper

garlic salt

3 whole lemons (quartered, seeds removed if desired)

baby carrots (or sliced large ones)

celery (sliced and chunked)

small potatoes (peeled or not)

onion (quartered)

extra virgin olive oil

 

1.  Combine the salt, lemon pepper, and garlic salt in a small bowl.

2.  Rinse and pat dry the chickens. Patting them dry helps give them a crispier skin in the oven. Dry-brine the chickens with these seasonings up to one or two days in advance of roasting them and put them in the refrigerator, though you can season them the same day you cook them. You’ll need about ¼ tsp. salt for every pound of chicken; add garlic salt and lemon pepper to taste. (I’m generous, especially with the lemon pepper, which isn’t as strong as garlic salt.) Stuff the insides of the chickens with the lemon wedges. (Apologize to the chickens if you feel the need.)

Dry-brining is great because it allows the salt and seasonings to absorb into the meat and then lock in flavor and juices. If you let it rest in the fridge for a day or two, you can observe over time that the chicken will look at one point as if it’s sweating. Do not be alarmed. This is part of the “moisturizing-flavorizing” process. (But don’t take my word for it. You can learn more about this process by doing a Google search for “how to dry brine a chicken” and let yourself be dizzied by the array of experts offering their guidance.)

3.  When you’re ready to cook the chickens, pour a shallow bath of chicken broth into the bottom of the baking dish. Toss in the carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery around and under the chickens. Brush olive oil over the tops of the chickens; coat them well.

4.  I use a convection oven, but you can do this in a regular oven, too. Roast or bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, uncovered. Then roast or bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, covered with a loose aluminum foil tent.

5.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake, loosely tented, until thigh meat (not next to the bone) reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees at least. In my convection oven, this usually takes about another hour to an hour-and-a-half when I’m cooking two chickens, but I recommend you start with 30 or 45 minutes and then just keep checking the temperature and adding on another 10-15 minutes each time as needed. After the first 30-45 minutes, remove the foil so the skin will gently brown and get crispy. Roasting or baking just one chicken may reduce your cooking times. The main goal is to make sure the bird’s internal temperature is safe.

 

I'm not a food photographer by any stretch of the imagination. Trust me, it's delicious.
I’m not a food photographer by any stretch of the imagination. Trust me, it’s delicious.

 

6.  Once the birds are out of the oven, let them rest for about five minutes before cutting them up. Serve with the root veggies and a lovely long grain and wild rice or ciabatta bread with butter. If you choose to roast just the chickens without the vegetables, serve with a salad, too.

Om nom nom!

If you make this recipe or have other tips or comments to share about dry-brining poultry or cooking chicken and vegetables, please post in the comments section below!

SkyMall Gems, 2014 Edition

SkyMall must be on to me.

They must have read my previous posts about their asinine merchandise (here and here) and decided to pull back on the cray-cray this year. But, of course, such habits die hard, and on my recent trip to Los Angeles, I found a few items to still make us gigglesnort at their inanity with relief that the business of creating overpriced chindogu for bored air passengers* is still alive and kicking its elevator-shoe-clad feet.

Sarah Warburton has provided commentary on these items, too, for your edification.

 

 

Grillight

 

Seriously? Does anyone actually grill in the dark, in the middle of the night? That’s some serious cravings, dude. Are you living with a vegan** or something?

 

Grillight
Sarah said, “This is what you give your dad when he doesn’t want any more ties.”

 

 

Singing Gondolier 

 

The catalog text reads, “Turn your pool into an enchanting Venetian canal.”

 

Sarah said, "That's awful."
Sarah said, “That’s awful.”

 

I guarantee it won’t do that.

 

And finally, continuing the SkyMall catalog’s curators’ unusual squirrel fetish…

 

 

Squirrel Tree Climber 

 

Because nothing says class like a weird animal sculpture. SkyMall specializes in these.

 

Sarah said, "Hahaha oh no!"
Sarah said, “Hahaha oh no!”

 

***

 

*  I am dismayed by the diminishing number of passengers I see reading every time I get on an airplane. To quote Handy and The Human Ton, “Read a book!” Like mine, which is coming out in August. (See what I did there? The requisite Shameless Self-Promotion Every Author Must Do, yet buried, hopefully in good taste, in a footnote.)

 

**  Nothing against vegans. I genuinely admire their resolve and commitment to social and ecological responsibility, especially when they don’t browbeat meat-eaters for not being vegan, too.

Writing Process Blog Tour

Because I don’t really like to post to my blog more than once a day, I’m taking a very short break from the National Poetry Month features tonight to participate in a blog tour for which I was tagged last week by Sabrina Garie.  The other writers I’m tagging tonight — who will be posting their interviews in one week — are Sarah Warburton and Russell Linton, whose bios appear at the end of this post.

The subject of this blog tour is our writing process. It’s simple, with just four questions, but they’re important questions that writers tend to get asked a lot.

***

Q:  What am I working on at the moment?

A:  I have found that the best way to conquer writer’s block is to have too many projects going at one time for the amount of time you have to work on them, so there are four big ones on my plate right now in addition to an evolving number of other things that pop up (such as guest blog articles, poem or essay requests, reviews of others’ books, my blog, etc.).

The biggest project I have right now is a novel, a fantasy based on a fairy tale that I’ve completely reimagined. It’s in the editing phase. I also have two poetry projects, one a collection in the editing phase and another collection in the drafting phase. The project which is nearest completion is a forthcoming e-book, FINIS. It’s magic realism and relatively short – technically a novelette at just under 12,000 words – so will be published only as an e-book at this time. I should have more details on when later this spring; watch this blog and my Facebook page for updates.

 

Q:  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A:  It’s probably best to focus on my novel for this question. I have found that many people tend to assume YA when you mention “fantasy with female protagonist” or “fairy tale.” Considering what’s popular right now in the marketplace, that may be a fair assumption, but that’s not really what I’m writing. Although I think it could definitely appeal to an upper-YA audience – and I would love it if it did! – my primary target demographic includes adult readers.

The story itself is atypical because it’s a father-daughter novel, and both the father’s and the daughter’s POVs are given. There are both realistic and magical elements to the story, and because of my academic background, my style is considered “literary” (as in “literary fiction”) as well as commercial (due to its subject matter). The story itself contains family drama, political intrigue, and romance.

 

Q:  Why do I write what I do?

A:  I love to write what I love to read.

 

Q:  How does my writing process work?

A:  I’m a pathologically busy mom and wife who has a long commute to a full-time high school teaching job. It’s a wonder that it works at all!

My family graciously doesn’t complain when I leave my house really early on Saturday mornings to have a writing date for a couple of hours with my friend Sarah Warburton. I also carve out time here and there on the weekends and very, very occasionally during the work week. Certain compromises have to be made. For example, during the school year, my blog generally gets updated only during weekends or week nights, though this means I might miss out sometimes on just relaxing with a book or a movie after the kids go to bed. However, the bulk of my writing time – the time I have for big projects – comes during summer break, when my kids are more than happy to attend lots of fun day camps with their friends while I get a few hours to myself each day to work. It’s a system that makes everyone pretty happy.

I’ve also just found, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced, that I can’t wait until inspiration strikes. Writing is a job, however fulfilling, and requires persistence, perseverance, and drive. It’s not for the faint of heart.

***

“Tag, You’re It!”

Sarah Warburton is a writer, wife, the mother of two, and a knitter (not necessarily in that order) living in Sugar Land, TX.  After earning an M.A. in Classics from the University of Georgia and another from Brown University, she spent time working in independent bookstores, reading and writing. She’s studied at the University of New Mexico with Sharon Oard Warner and Julie Shigekuni, at the Taos Writer’s Workshop with Pam Houston, and in Houston with Justin Cronin. Since 2005 she’s been a staff writer for the local monthly magazine UpClose and a member of the weekly critique group, Writers Ink. Her short story, “Margaret’s Magnolia,” appeared in the Southern Arts Journal, and she has finished her first mystery novel, The Language of the Dead, and is working on her second.

In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time. Russ creates fiction in many genres. His stories drip with blood, sarcasm, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls. Check out this page here for ways to acquire his work and to invite him to write more stuff.

 

2013 Blogging Year-in-Review

Happy New Year!  🙂

Yes, I know New Year’s was a while ago.  As far as I’m concerned, all of January is New Year’s.  I call it New Year’s Month, because that’s about how long it takes me to recover from the holidays, undecorate my house, get my family’s New Year’s cards out, and get back into the swing of things at school.

Happy New Year’s Month!  🙂

WordPress kindly sends out annual reports to their bloggers every December 31st with stats for the blog’s year-in-review, and I like to share a few of those things with you, delightful readers.  (Here’s a peek at last year’s; this year’s will be different.)

Sappho’s Torque is being read in 75 countries now.  That’s pretty cool.

Here are my most popular posts of 2013.  The thing I find most interesting about this short list is that it encompasses really well the directions my blog took in 2013.

*  Government Shutdown Haiku Contest:  I love to sponsor haiku contests — in fact, look for another one coming soon!

*  Why Our Society is Failing as a Collection of Human Beings:  Sometimes things happen out there in the world that drive me to my computer to sound off about them in public.  I try to keep this to a minimum, but sometimes the issue and my breaking point must not be ignored.

*  May Rêveuses in Bloom:  For thirteen months I conducted the Rêveurs Revelation Fashion Project in celebration of Erin Morgenstern’s novel The Night Circus — an excellent book and one which affected me deeply — and, although I’m not still doing it here on the blog, I’m delighted and astounded to have been told just a week ago that some of those who were participating in it around the country while it was a feature here on this blog still do so just for fun.  So amazing!

*  100 Days of School:  Sometimes I share stories about my family, and this post about my son’s kindergarten homework remains one of the most giggle-inducing and cheer-you-up posts ever.

*  Fashion Friday 8/9/13:  Another blog project I had going on for a while was my Fashion Friday series, which was a wonderful way to merge one of my hobbies (fashion, especially the quirky kind) with an opportunity to host guest bloggers.  I’m not still doing this weekly, but I am still taking queries for Fashion Friday guest posts and even working on a couple myself.  This particular post (from 8/9/13) was written by Sarah Warburton about the Tardis socks she knitted.

Life here is busy.  I have many writing projects on the proverbial stove, and some are nearly done cooking.  I continue to strive for work-life balance — something I’m not entirely convinced even exists — and have resolved this year not to make any big resolutions, but rather to make one smart decision at a time.  Sometimes this even works out.

Thank you all, so much, for being here.  I wouldn’t bother blogging without an audience, and I’m glad you’re here, because despite my initial reservations about getting into this practice, I’ve been enjoying it immensely.

Cheers.  🙂

 

Fashion Friday 8/9/13

Hello! Our Fashion Friday post this week comes to us from guest blogger Sarah Warburton. (View her blog here.) Sarah writes mysteries, has read pretty much everything, and is my awesome Saturday morning writing date. I’m not sure anyone else could lure me from sleep before dawn on a weekend to drive down to a coffee shop with my ancient (read: heavy) laptop to write, but Sarah’s company and keeping-you-honest presence make it more than worth the effort. In addition to being a really wonderful writer and reader and writing partner…

…she knits.

***

Amy Pond: I thought…well, I started to think you were just a mad man with a box.

The Doctor: Amy Pond, there’s something you better understand about me ’cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it…I am definitely a mad man with a box. Continue reading “Fashion Friday 8/9/13”