Once upon a time, long ago in the golden age of travel and visiting folks, we stopped to see friends who live outside of Philadelphia. Our Mr. Smith is a fabulous cook, and the meals he prepares are the stuff of legend. He made an impressive Dorie Greenspan chicken recipe for our dinner. His version of Dorie’s “Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version” was a show stopper. (The dish is the cover photo for her book “Around My French Table” https://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2015/05/french-fridays-with-dorie-chicken-in-a-pot-the-garlic-and-lemon-version-the-final-recipe/)
Mr. Smith brought a large Dutch oven to the table, its lid was sealed with brown, baked dough crust. Dramatically, with a sturdy screwdriver, he broke the dough seal, and a billow of fragrant steam puffed out. The pope had been elected. This the first time I had ever seen that cooking technique. (https://www.meilleurduchef.com/en/recipe/flour-dough-sealing.html) After the applauding the special effects, we were delighted to hungrily fall on the wondrous garlic-y chicken casserole, while talking a mile a minute. And we resolved to replicate this dining experience at home.
The first couple of times Mr. Sanders attempted Mr. Smith’s chicken there were hits, and there were misses. He was fooled by the cover photo of the newly acquired cookbook, which shows a whole chicken inside the Dutch oven, instead of a more accurate and true-to-the recipe, cut-up chicken. It was pretty tricky trying to brown a whole bird, which he attempted, before re-reading the recipe. Which then necessitated buying a boning knife, so he could cut a whole chicken into pieces. (I would have bought chicken pieces, pre-cut, but I am a journeyman cook…) And then the seal that the dough was supposed to provide was not as tight as was required. So we bought a fancier Dutch oven, with a better fitting lid. It was slightly smaller than the previous pot. Which brought more complications to the process.
This is the time of year when I do my best to stay away from the kitchen and the heat of the oven. This is when I enjoy Mr. Sanders and his penchant for grilling outside on the back porch. We sit out there, tossing the ball for Luke the wonder dog, watching as fireflies begin to appear in the darkening hydrangeas. We enjoy the dissipation of the heat of the day, while he flips burgers, rolls foil-wrapped ears of corn, times the salmon, adjusts the chicken breasts. He is the grill master. Imagine my surprise last weekend when we spent an entire afternoon in the kitchen, almost following a Dorie Greenspan recipe for roasted chicken.
Mr. Sanders had originally intended to replicate Mr. Smith’s chicken-in-a-pot dish, as a Sunday dinner showpiece. We stopped by the farmers’ market on Saturday and picked up a chicken from our favorite poultry farmers, choosing a 4.5-pound bird. On Sunday, upon re-reading the original recipe, Mr. Sanders decided to opt for something new. He had flipped through the Greenspan cookbook and landed on “Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux”. Les Paresseux are lazy people. Certainly lazy people would never have attempted this dish, which required yet another trip to the fancy grocery store. We have a pot of rosemary on the porch, but no sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, because the dried stuff would certainly never do. Nor did we have baby potatoes or four shallots, or French bread to line the bottom of the pot, absorbing juicy goodness while the chicken was cooking.
Les Paresseux chicken does not not need to be cut up, so it looks quite pretty. But our fat bird filled the fancy Dutch oven, snugly. There wasn’t enough room to add the newly acquired herbs, vegetables, garlic and French bread. Instead, he lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, drizzled them with oil, and roasted them separately. The chicken cooked by itself in the fancy new Dutch oven, without a top, without veggies, and without a dough seal.
This was the intended recipe: https://www.food.com/recipe/roast-chicken-for-les-paresseux-500592 Instead we had a simpler, improvised roast chicken, with a side of roasted veggies, and plates of bread and butter. https://www.markbittman.com/recipes-1/simplest-roast-chicken-8-ways with sheet pan vegetables. https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/sheet-pan-roasted-vegetables Simplicity. And it took all of a Sunday afternoon.
“One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”