Monday, June 30, 2008
Robin mentioned I should include recipes but I think of this blog as being about the experience of food in my life and how it changes what I do and how I think about other things. Also a lot of my recipes aren't so great and are totally ripped off other people's fantastic cooking ideas.
Still, I'd like to mention cooking food when it relates to an experience, like the first time I roasted an entire chicken which conveniently was just last week.
I've mentioned before that I gave up factory-farmed meat which means I don't eat meat not bought and prepared by myself much. Where are all the restaurants advertising their cage free quails? I'll patronize them! (I've never eaten a quail but I saw some at the New Amsterdam Market and am intrigued...they look like dolls if raw chickens played with little dolls of themselves. Ew. Never mind.)
One of the things I missed the most was roasted chicken. There's a Cuban restaurant in my neighborhood that makes amazing rotisserie chicken and I mourn it.
I'm pretty lazy and when the taste for flesh comes on too strong I usually just broil a chicken breast or cook it on the stove top. As I trolled the poultry isle at the Park Slope Food Coop, in my fit of carnivorous lust, there was a cornucopia of animals that had been grass fed, hormone free blah di blah. Most of them still had their bones, or feet, most were probably stuffed with graphic little baggies of organs. Why haven't I ever had duck or rabbit (not technically a bird, but still)? Was it more than laziness but rather squeamishness, a reluctance to acknowledge that what I was eating was once a living thing that died to feed me?
Hunger and curiosity drove me to pick up a whole chicken and take on preparing the meal I always pictured in my mind as an event, something for a special occasion. When I got it home and unwrapped it I was surprised not by the blood or expected organ baggie, but by the heft and texture of the thing outside its packaging. It felt kind of like a baby (Note: If your baby feels like a raw chicken consult a pediatrician immediately).
So this is how I made it:
Wash it out then dry with paper towels. Cover the whole thing with black pepper and salt and stick some garlic into slits you cut in the skin (another weird 'this was alive' moment. The skin moves across the flesh so you can see your garlic chunks lost beneath the surface.) Put it in a high sided tray breast down then in the oven at 450 until that side is browned, flip it over and brown the other side. Then I took it out turning the oven to 325 and added onions and potatoes around the chicken with a little bit of water, probably more than I need to, then put the whole thing back in for about an hour, checking on it and basting it occasionally.
It was remarkably easy and tasty. Though the process of preparing it had moments where I was just plan grossed out I think this was a testament to how disconnected we become with the source of our food rather than a sign from God that eating animals is wrong. Perhaps on the farm as I lead a Billy-Goat to the slaughter house I'll reconsider that position, but for now I just want to use this experience to establish a personal ground rule for eating-If you can't bring yourself to handle the materials you shouldn't eat the product.
For info on where my chicken came from (It's Amish!) check out these chicken people: