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Roast Chicken= Comfort...Nostalgia

Roast chicken is pure comfort food to me! It is one of the first actual dishes that I remember making when I first lived on my own and really started, really In hindsight, cooking back then was all about developing the basics (whether I realized it or not. Not.). My first roaster was one of those green-painted oval metal deals. Pot roasts, chuck roasts, pork roasts, whole chickens...all with chunks of root vegetables, quartered potatoes and whole cloves of garlic thrown in, a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of cheap wine, you make it a meal. It was good stuff...satisfying, filling...a big dose of comfort. Over the years, my roasting pan has improved. I actually have 3 to choose from now! I adore my unglazed stoneware roaster, my self-appointed enameled cast iron roaster (I think it's actually a lasagna dish, but it works wonders as a roaster) and my big, handled silver roasting pan which finally allows me to roast whole turkeys (for my favorite meal of the year). So, although my ways and means have evolved over the years, my affinity for good, roast chicken remains unfeathered. Unfettered! I mean unfettered...sheesh.

The beautiful simplicity of a roast chicken is probably what lures people in...what lures me in. There are endless flavor combinations, endless methods (breast down, breast up, tied, hangin' loose, stuffed cavity, backbone removed & flattened...need I go on?) and endless personal favorites. I recently came across a Tyler Florence recipe in the Aug/Sep 2009 issue of Food Network Magazine for Roast Chicken. He was trying to make a great meal for $12 or less (ended up being $2.90/serving). I'm going to enthusiastically say that he succeeded...and so did I when I served it for dinner last night. It was devoured. Bones were picked and fingers were licked.

Roast Chicken with Wilted Butter Lettuce and Peas
by Tyler Florence, Food Network Magazine Aug/Sep 2009 issue...or HERE

For the Chicken:
1 3-to-4 lb. chicken, rinsed and patted dry
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
4-6 bay leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the Lettuce and Peas:
1 c. dry white wine
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
kosher salt
4 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
freshly ground pepper
1 c. frozen peas
 1 large head butter lettuce, leaves separated I couldn't find any butter lettuce so I ended up using 2 small head of bib lettuce and a few leaves of a little radicchio, chopped

1. Prepare the chicken: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Season the chicken cavity with plenty of salt and pepper; stuff the lemon halves, garlic, thyme and bay leaves inside.
Drizzle the skin with olive oil and rub all over; season with plenty of salt and pepper. Place the chicken breast-side up in a roasting pan; roast for 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees F. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. I'm going to suggest setting the chicken on a rack to allow the under-side to crisp up as well as the breast-side did.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the lettuce and peas; Combine the wine, red onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and a pinch of salt in a saucepan; simmer over medium heat until the mixture is syrupy and just coats the bottom of the pan. (My closely hear the end because it evaporated very quickly. If you end up losing it all, just add a bit more wine to the pan and reduce it until syrupy and go from there.) Whisk in the butter cubes, a few at a time, to thicken the sauce and give it a shine. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. (Remove bay leaf and peppercorns before serving.)
Place the peas in a small pot of salted boiling water until heated through; drain. Toss the peas, lettuce and warm butter sauce (this is called Beurre Blanc...white butter) in a bowl until the lettuce wilts slightly.

Serve with the chicken.This was a fabulous meal for summertime...or anytime I'm sure. The gorgeous wilted lettuce salad was amazing...the beurre blanc was a silky cover for this mild lettuce, with the sweet little pops of the peas and the addition of the radicchio added a nice little bite. Paired with the beautiful, juicy thyme-essence of the chicken with its golden-crisp skin...I could have been back in my first apartment just as easily as in my current kitchen with my hubby and kiddos. Joy!
Be sure to head over to Tyler Florence Fridays to check out what everybody else cooked up with Tyler this week!
*Update: I'm proud to have this post featured on Tyler Florence's logo to check it out!*