Now that fall is in full swing and the temperature is continuing to drop, I've added a whole chicken to my grocery list and am enjoying the ritual of the weekly roast chicken cycle.
Roasting day is my favourite. I love preparing the bird for the oven. I take the chicken out of the fridge an hour or two ahead of time to let it come to room temperature. Then, while the oven is preheating (to 325ºF), I rinse and dry the bird, lay it in the roasting tray, and rub a wad of butter over the entire surface. The white skin feels smooth and cool, and the muscle and bone underneath is firm. I examine the fat at the tail end and remove the excess. Salt and pepper inside and out. If I'm so inclined, I'll slice half an onion or pick some thyme from the garden to insert into the cavity for extra flavour. While in the oven, the chicken roasts away slowly, eventually bubbling and sputtering, sending its delicious aroma into the air. Once finished, and having rested for a quarter hour under a tea towel, the chicken is ready to eat. This is when to enjoy the crisp, freshly roasted skin, and, my favourite bits, the wings. I eat these standing over the stove in the kitchen.
I keep the chicken in its roasting dish in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, so that the roasting juices congeal at the bottom. Never throw these away. They are rich in flavour and nutrition and add depth to any sauce. My new favourite thing to make with leftover chicken and the juice is gnocchi with cream. This recipe is so simple, delicious, and fast with a prep time of only 10 minutes. I encourage you to try it.
Finally, the end of the chicken cycle is when all of the meat is picked away and the bones go into the stock pot. Again, glorious smells fill the house as the stock pot gurgles. I yield about a litre of stock per chicken carcass, enough to make an easy lentil soup for the next day.
GNOCCHI WITH CHICKEN AND CREAM
1/2 pound gnocchi
two handfuls roast chicken, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
roasting pan juices, fat removed
1/4 c whipping cream
chopped fresh parsley (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In boiling salted water, cook gnocchi until they rise to the surface. Drain. In the same saucepan, add the pan juices and cream, bringing to a boil. Add gnocchi and chicken, stirring to coat and heat, 30 seconds with the lid on. Remove from heat. Add parsley and season. Serve with steamed broccoli, or a side salad.