Happy 100th post, to me.
Ah, the things I have learned over these last 100 posts...the friends I have made, the pictures I have taken, the stories that have unfolded... I was feeling very comforted as I thought about what I would like to post for my big 1-0-0. So, this on my mind, and thinking of all of the new recipes I had tried and new dishes I had attempted, I decided I wanted to do something classic: A roasted chicken.
But alas, no picture today. Believe me when I say that this is a blessing for you. You wouldn't have wanted to see a picture of my chicken anyway... or at least not what was hiding, nestled inside the leg of this particular chicken...
I was trying out Martha Stewart's version of roasted chicken, cooked on a bed of thickly sliced onions and with sprigs of tarragon and thin slices of garlic placed gently between the skin and the breast meat, giving it a deliciously subtle, yet still distinct, anise-y flavor (not too much as you wouldn't want that "grassy, manure-like" smell that you can get with tarragon, according to Nigella Lawson in her fabulous cookbook/food philosophy How to Eat). Everything went as well as it possibly could have, considering that I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to tuck those dumb wings under the damn bird (although I know I have done it correctly in the past!) and I still have never figured out exactly how to truss my feathered friend up. Additionally, I still get slightly grossed out pulling all the giblets (I did finally learn that this is pronounced "jib-lets," not giblets, right?) and messing around with all that extra butt skin...er, is that the neck? Whatever.
And that's just the physical act of preparing to roast a whole chicken... While doing all of this necessary fussing, a psychological war also rages: I am on the homefront, fending off all of those little tiny salmonella that I just know are hopping off of said bird onto my clean counter and playing frisbee or rugby for a while there, spreading themselves about, before beginning a game of hide and seek just as I get out the freshly microwaved sponge... yep, just there having a hayday and waiting to make me horribly ill and running for the toilet for days to come. Don't even talk to me about rubbing butter on the skin of the bird either...all I can think about is an excerpt from The Julie/Julia Project where she quotes Silence of the Lambs - "...it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again..." Once I get past all that, I'm fine...usually.
Back to my story, though....in the oven the bird goes, in the very cheap and large roasting pan we bought to cook the turkey in for Thanksgiving when my father and stepmother came to visit two years ago, and I start washing things up/fighting the salmonella. Only to have the beejeezus scared out of me when a bomb goes off behind me...BOOOOOM! It took me quite a while to climb down from the ceiling and realize that the "bomb" was the pan warping into a twisted, bizarre-looking rendition of a metal artist's take on "Sideways Pan" in the oven. I peeked in and my poorly trussed chicken had slipped off its bed of onions and slid to one side of the pan. Nevermind that, I've dealt with this before. I simply pushed one of the onions under the bird, add some tin foil under one side of the pan (did I mention the pan doesn't really fit in our oven very well either? And that it sucks?), and on I went.
After a fair amount of time (it felt like a friggin' eternity I was so hungry!), I pulled my beautifully browned, crispy organic free-range blah blah blah bird out of my oven. You must understand that the beauty of this particular bird was a formidable feat in itself since my oven is over 100 degrees above what that little dial on the front says, and that's just in the front of the oven. The back of the oven is probably more like 400 degrees over the dial...but I haven't gotten brave enough to stick the little life-saving oven thermometer (do get one of these, please!) back there yet...even when the oven is off, it's still scary back there. I tested the temperature of the bird with an instant read thermometer and it said it was go time. So I let the chicken sit for a good 10 or 15 minutes just like I was supposed to, to save all those precious juices. I didn't take pictures, because by then I had figured that "Everyone but me can roast a stupid chicken," but now I wish I had. Here, I'll cheat: photo courtesy of Martha Stewart.
Now, where was I?
Oh, the carving. This was a disaster. I tried to follow the carving instructions on the website...cut down the leg, severing the joint (EW.) Cut the thigh loose from the drumstick (EW.)...okay, doing fine...not pretty, but I got the job done. I'll get to the other side in a second...I wanted to start on the breast meat. I cut along the backbone and starting trying to slice sideways "following the contour of the ribcage," (EW.) and this was just a mess. My pieces of chicken breast were not pretty. For that matter, neither was my thigh or drumstick, but I figured the breast should be the easy part. Nope, not easy. I whined loudly out to Loving Boyfriend, who was in the other room. Then I gave up on demolishing the breast meat and went to the other leg. Here's where it got nasty.
I dug the knife in, trying to see where it was going and pulled the meat back a bit so that I could see that pesky bone...but when I pulled the leg back, there was a BIG BLOODY SPOT HANGING OUT IN THERE!!!! Not like a little colored spot that got into the meat, like you get sometimes when you cook chicken breasts, but a BIG BLOODY JUICY SPOT GELLED UP AND LIVING COMFORTABLY IN THERE!!!! And, it was about the size of a QUARTER!!! EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!
"Oh GROSS!" I yelled at Loving Boyfriend. "That's just NASTY!!"
"What? What's wrong?" Loving Boyfriend swooped in from the living room.
"There's a BIG BLOODY SPOT ON MY CHICKEN!! IT'S NOT DONE! WHY ISN'T IT DONE??? THE THERMOMETER SAID IT WAS DONE BUT IT'S GOT A BIG BLOODY SPOT. A BIG. BLOODY. SPOT. RIGHT THERE. EEEEEEEWWWWWW!!!"
"Oh, that happens sometimes, honey. It's probably finished. Look, the breast looks okay."
"But there's a SPOT. RIGHT THERE!! EEEEEEWWWW!!!!"
"But there's a SPOT. RIGHT THERE!! EEEEEEWWWW!!!!"
This exchange was followed by lots of irrepressible shudders on my part, which still come about unprovoked even days later, and Loving Boyfriend taking over the carving.
Needless to say, I only ate the breast meat. And I'm not sure what happened to the BLOODY SPOT...maybe it's still living in there, relaxing on its cushy leg chair. I think that even if I can muster up the stomach to roast another whole chicken someday, I might never have the stomach to carve another one.
Ah, yes, the adventures I have had...the lessons I have learned...
THERE HAD BETTER NEVER BE ANOTHER BLOODY SPOT ON MY CHICKEN LEG!!