“Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living” by chef and restauranteur Robert Arbor (with Katherine Whiteside) should be a must read for anyone contemplating an elegant existance. Elegance, in this case, is defined as simplicity. Or perhaps more appropriately, finding joy in the simple pleasures of life. This isn’t a cookbook, although it has wonderful recipes. It may be more of a memoire. At any rate, it is a joy to read. Especially on a Sunday when you are thinking about supper.
I’ve always judged a restaurant on the quality of its roast chicken; and the same may be said of the cook. Although the pleats on a chef’s tocque are supposed to number the ways that he can prepare an egg, I think one should be set aside for the chicken. And Mr. Arbor’s classic roast chicken is one of the best. Even in this day of the pre-cooked, grocery store rotisserie chicken.
There really is something magical about the smell of a roasting chicken and vegetables. And the leftovers make delicious sandwiches and stock. I cook mine in a two-handled round copper pan. It’s pretty enough to use as a serving platter. Here is my version of the simple roasted chicken. (An easy way to cheat is to use Hungarian Chicken Rub found in the spice isle of your grocery store.)
1, 3-4 lb roasting chicken (giblets removed)
1 large onion
About 24 baby carrots
Fingerling potatoes or 6 small red potatoes
2 cloves garlic (or more)
1 sprig of rosemary, oregano and thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1- 2 tsp. of paprika
The end of a stale baguette.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Oil your shallow sided roasting pan.
Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Pat dry. Refresh it with the juice of half a lemon. Rub the spices, salt and pepper on the inside. Press the garlic cloves with a garlic press or mince the cloves and rub them inside the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the herbs (you may also stuff the onion in after them if you don’t plan on eating it.) Close the cavity with the stale bread (Thank you Mr. Arbor for this invaulable tip.) Rub the outside of the chicken with the olive oil and salt and pepper it. Tuck the wings under the legs (you don’t have to tie them together as in the photo.) Quarter the potatoes until they are mostly uniform in size. Surround the bird with the carrots and potaotes (and onion quarters if you didn’t choose to stuff it into the cavity.) Dose with olive oil, salt and pepper. You may also sprinkle some herbs outside the bird, as they are pretty on the crispy skin.
Roast for at least an hour. I usually take about one hour and twenty minutes. You’ll know the chicken is cooked when the juices run clear from a pricked thigh. A meat thermomenter is helpful, too. But don’t hit the bone when you insert it as it will give you a false reading. Let the chicken stand for ten minutes so that it carves easier.
Serve with a tossed green salad and some good bread. Any chilled white wine will do. We have a Viognier grape that grows well in Virginia and makes a nice wine. Buy local when you can.