Wednesday, February 20, 2008

About me and a Roast Chicken

I am a grouch.

A grump.

A middle-aged squawker and complainer. If you tell me the glass is half full I'll tell you what's probably floating in the other half. While you see a warm spring day I see mosquito bites and a sunburn. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate life, I'm not (especially) pessimistic, I just like to complain about things. Some people like to golf or fish, I like to grouse.

One of my biggest sore spots is food, specifically home cooking.

OK! here's the first ever CrabbyQuestion:

Q. What human activity do we all take part in more often than any other?

A. We eat.

Now one of you smarty-pants types out there is going to say something like breathe or go to the bathroom. Well breathing isn't optional and if you include between meal snacks I'm pretty sure that eating and bathroom breaks are a dead heat. No, when it comes to voluntary activities, nothing beats eating. But here's the CrabbyCook's complaint, we all do it but very few of us are willing to take the time or effort to try and do it well.

How many times have you heard someone say something like:

"Oh, I just don't have the time to cook, and when I do I'm really horrible."


CrabbyQuestion 2:

Q. Is there any other activity where people are so proud that they're lousy?

A. Not a chance!

How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, I'm a terrible parent.", or "I have got to be the world's worst driver.", or "I'm just lousy in the bedroom." You know how many times?, close to never. But when it comes to food we're more than willing to wallow in our own ineptitude.

Well that's changing today. Listen up crablings, from now on, until I get bored with posting, I'm going to show you how I cook. On top of that I'll try and teach you about what equipment you need to have, what should always be in your cupboards and what wines go with what foods. I'll warn you about how much prep work goes into a meal, how much actual cooking goes on and best of all how much clean-up is involved.

There'll be a cast of characters helping me along the way. There'll be "Seashell Sal" who'll handle dessert and bread baking (that's a bit complex so we won't be getting there for a while). You'll meet "Wine Wizard Bob", who will be my go-to source for all wine questions (I'll even give you directions to his store). With a little luck I'll pick up a few more helpers along the way.

Now the basics. I'll try and post three times a week. No guarantees, but that's the goal. Most, but not all posts will have a recipe included. I'll try and post photos of the process. I'll review cookbooks, restaurant experiences, TV chefs and kitchen tools.

Finally, I'm basically a carnivore. I will post recipes for soups, vegetables, grains and pastas, but my primary area of interest is meat: chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb, duck and game. I'll show you my tricks and my cheats, those things that make the process a little easier and faster. If you have questions or comments, post them. If you have recipes you want me to try, post them.

Alright, let's get started. One of my favorite meals, especially on a cold Sunday afternoon, is Roast Chicken. Nothing could be easier. Prep time is virtually non-existent, and
active (more on that later) cooking time is as close to zero as you get.

Roast Chicken

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.


1 Roasting Chicken (4-5 lbs.)
4 Tbsp Butter softened to room temperature
1 Lemon
1 Tbsp each of dried Sage & Thyme

Place the chicken in a roasting pan (if you have one, put the bird on a roasting rack first). Rub the bird down with the softened butter (if you forget to take out the butter, zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then, using a spoon, spread it on the bird). Sprinkle the bird with salt, pepper and the dried herbs. Finally, cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the bird. Place the lemon halves in the cavity of the bird. Wash your hands.

Put the bird in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn down the oven to 375 deg., roast for an additional 45-55 minutes. Go have a glass of wine. After an hour, remove from the oven and cover with a piece of foil for 10 minutes. Don't skip the resting step. The juices are bubbling away in the chicken, if you cut into it right away they'll just run all over the cutting board instead of staying in the chicken.

Carve. Pour pan juices over the chicken (gravy is for another posting). Eat.

Bask in your new found ability.

Wine Recommendation: White - California Chardonnay either a J. Lohr for about $16 or a Rombauer for $35 (for you big spenders). Red - California Sanford Pinot Noir at $25

Tip 1: Have the chicken out for 30-45 minutes before you work on it. The closer it is to room temperature the faster and more evenly it will cook.

Tip 2: Thick slice some potatoes (1/2" - 3/4" thick) and place them under the bird along with some carrot chunks, it's a quick way to add some vegetables to the meal and have fewer things to clean afterwards.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 2 minutes (come on, how long does it take to put a pan in the oven?)
Passive Cooking Time: 1 Hour
Clean-up: Easy to Moderate (you may have to scour the roasting pan)

That's it crablings, your first recipe. I'll be back soon.

Just remember, you can do it. You
can cook!


Robina said...

Hi Viktor,
While disappointed that I didn't see any quote attribution to: "Oh, I just don't have the time to cook, and when I do I'm really horrible.", I love the site. I will commit to an honest effort to improve my cooking skills via the Crabby Cook Blog School. I will keep you posted on my progress!

Anonymous said...

Dear Crabby Cook,
Great site! Let's see what the kitchen challenged wife can produce from her newly acquired skills. I love you man.

wheezy said...

Go Crabby! Jeanne gave me an old chili stained le creuset pot once and I love it. Why did you get a new one? How about gravy lessons and the sandwich recipe? xoxo said...

To my "fans",

Robin, I can easily give you a list of 30 people who have given me similar quotes, so you're not alone out there..

Klondike, I'm glad you're excited, but remember, nothing stops a kitchen challenged husband from learning a few cooking tricks.

Wheezy, you wonder why you didn't get a new le creuset? well it's obvious you've never spent three months caring for Hell-Beast-Hank, Poodle Terrorist.

As for gravy, well let's walk a little before we start running; the sandwich is on the production list but may not make an appearance until closer to (Michigan) picnic weather.

SusieQ said...

Hey There, Crabby!
Too fun - I never got either a new or used Le Creuset from Jeanne, but have had 1 since b/4 Tracey was born - they're the best! I know you said you'd be concentrating on meats, but I'd love to see your recipe(s) for fish "en papillote." Good job calling out Klondike on the "kitchen challenged wife..."

QueenyLou said...

Hey Crabby!
Thank you for pointing out the long overlooked floaties in the glass of water. Just when I thought it didn't get any worse than "half empty!" I am proud to enroll in the Crabby Cook Blog School and can't wait to see what's cookin'!

Robina said...

Hey Crabby,
Okay so I (more or less) successfully roasted my first chicken - roasted in my new Calphalon Roasting Pan via CrabbyCook/Amazon. The recipe was great! However,true to form, I didn't take the bird out of the fridge in time for it to achieve room temp. Yes! Horrors! Uneven cooking and a return trip to the oven. I always seem to miss those little important details, buried in the depths of recipe prose.
All that said, the chicken tasted great, the potatoes were an easy addition and Klondike lived through my first culinary adventure. said...

Awright Robin, glad to hear about the success. Bringing the beast up to room temperature does help a lot. If you forget to pull the beast out ahead of time I'd just add about 15 minutes to the longer roast time. That should do it.

If your roasting times differ greatly from mine you might want to check to make sure your oven is getting to the proper temperature (Sounds like a good project for Klondike).

The more experience you get the easier it will be to see if things are done or not.


The Crab Master
(I like that, though King Crab is equally acceptable)