Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five Trains to Philly

It's a multi-train, three-hour commute from my office door to downtown Philadelphia, a trip I look forward to every Friday. I love trains. There are no traffic jams, I can stand up, stretch and move around, I can even take a little snooze without worrying about drifting into oncoming traffic. The minute I catch my first train in the Bronx,  I press "shuffle" on my iPod and check out until I exit the 30th Street Station in Philly. And who's there to greet me every Friday at 7:19? The Lone Ranger, that's who.
Tarragon Chicken - A Blog O. Food recipe as told by the L.R.
  • 1 whole roasting chicken, 4-5 lbs
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Infuse 3 tablespoons of butter with chopped tarragon by melting over medium heat in a small sauce pan, allowing the herbs to permeate the butter. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with some of the chopped vegetables. Rest the bird, breast-side up, on a bed of the remaining veggies in a large roasting pan. Drizzle the herbed butter all over the roaster, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Add a little water (about a cup) to the bottom of the roasting dish. Loosely cover the chicken with a large piece of aluminum foil.
Roast covered for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast another 60-75 minutes or so, basting the entire bird at 15 minute intervals. If necessary, protect the ends of the drumsticks by wrapping them in small pieces of foil. Once the internal temperature of the roaster reaches 160° with an instant-read thermometer, remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
While the bird rests, strain the pan juices through a mesh sieve. Separate the fat from the stock, reserving both. Heat equal amounts of chicken fat and flour in a large skillet, making a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, but do not allow the flour to brown. Whisk in the reserved stock plus enough canned broth to equal 2 cups, and bring to a boil. Reduce by one quarter, season to taste with salt & pepper. Pour into a gravy boat.
Pros like the Lone Ranger remove the legs, thighs, and wings, and then carve an entire breast half away from the carcass, slicing that laterally so that every piece has some crispy skin attached. Serve with your favorite green vegetable, and don't be stingy with the gravy!
There's a great passage in Diane Johnson's book Le Divorce:

And after the foie gras a new cultural misunderstanding loomed, for the main dish was a pair of roasted chickens, which smelled delicious and shone with brown glazing like a magazine photo and were of course, in my parents' minds, just chickens, a rather cheap food in Santa Barbara.

There was nothing "cheap" about this bird, moist and flavorful through and through, with a lovely hint of licorice from the tarragon. My Lone Ranger spent years as saucier with a major hotel chain, so just picture me later that night, his silky pan gravy in one hand, big chunks of leftover sourdough bread in the other. Oh the humanity!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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