Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Roast chicken and braised fennel dinner on a Monday? Boo yah!

As much as I try to plan quick dinners on the weeknights, there are times where I can't fight my craving for food that requires a bit more time and care. Since Mondays are so, well.......Mondays, I knew I'd want a nice, comforting meal when I got home yesterday.

I had read Orangette Molly's ode to the Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and knew I wanted to try it. What could be more comforting than a roast chicken? I had done the prep on Saturday- washed and dried the bird, salt, peppered and massaged the skin and slipped a few sage leaves beneath it. On my way home from work yesterday, I called my partner-in-crime (husband) and asked him to preheat the oven to 475 and take the chicken out of the refrigerator so it could warm up a bit.

When I arrived at home I hurriedly heated a heavy skillet on the stove until it was scorching and then set the seasoned bird in it breast-side up. It started to sizzle immediately and I stuck it in the oven.

While listening to the crackle & pop of browning chicken skin (mmmmm!) I sliced my fennel and prepared the braising liquid. I must admit, I've had a hate-hate relationship with fennel in the past but realized that the strong, liquorices flavor of the raw version dissipates into a mellow sweetness when baked or braised. I had never made fennel before but had enjoyed it so much in a pasta dish at Blair's a couple weeks back that I knew I wanted to jump on the bandwagon (the fennel bandwagon, that is).

Browning the fennel

After braising

Now back to the bird. After a few flips and an 80 minutes later, the chicken looked and smelled delicious. I let it rest before cutting through the crispy brown skin and into the juicy meat- and boy, was it juicy. I have to say this is the best roast chicken I have ever made! In the past, I always used a roasting pan and basted the bird repeatedly. Although that method results in a tender bird, it doesn't make for a crackling skin which, as many of you readers would agree, is the best part. It may require a bit of extra clean up of the oven but it's worth it.

Ready for carving......

Ready for consumption

And the fennel? I topped it with a few shavings of parmesan to contrast the sweetness. Although I did like it, it wasn't as meltingly tender as the versions I've had at various restaurants. I need to sharpen my fennel-making abilities, so I ask humbly, my fellow food bloggers, for any advice on the topic.

Dinner is served



elmomonster said...

Kudos to you! That chicken looks better than any roast chicken I've seen anywhere else.

I still don't have the balls to try this myself, but have read the Zuni posts on the CH Home Cooking so often that I think I might have to do it now...you've inspired me!

Oishii Eats said...

You are such an awesome cook. Straight mama style. I love it!