So much has happened in the past several months since I last posted. The farm has been growing and shrinking as we harvested all our Summer vegetables and sold most of them at our farm stand. We have been engaged in one busy project after the other, but are still on our toes and looking forward to clearing some more land to expand our goat pasture as the Winter months creep in.
Last week, with the warm weather coming to a quick end, we decided it was time to prepare all of our meat birds for the freezer. Ever since tasting my first bite of home grown, pasture raised, free range chicken, I haven't been able to buy any meat from the market. When you raise something yourself and put so much love and care into it you gain a special connection, understanding and appreciation for it.
One of the greatest things about growing so much of our own food has been gaining a respect for just knowing where it came from. When I wrote this recipe I used all fresh ingredients from our farm, aside from the lemon. I do have 4 lemon trees growing that should start producing in March, provided they get enough sunlight from our greenhouse, but in the mean time I'm sticking with store-bought. I am extremely hopeful they will produce, but Foster, Rhode Island has never really been known for its citrus production!
If you don't have all fresh ingredients I suggest, at the minimum, that you try getting a local chicken that was raised on pasture and vegetarian feed. It makes a major difference. My mother can't stand my obsession with cooking on cast iron, but we laugh about it. Considering she likes eating everything I cook on it I guess it just comes down to a matter of opinion.
For this meal I roast the entire chicken in a cast iron pan, surrounded by fingerling potatoes and baby carrots, with the hint of lemon and basil. The chicken just melts in your mouth. If you don't have a good cast iron pan, GET ONE; you can cook an entire meal in it. I suggest you get a 15 inch one. It's worth the extra few dollars, but it's so heavy that you may need 2 people to move it from the stove to the table. ;) It's been great getting so many positive emails from my readers about their successes and occasional failures with the recipes we write. The suggestions have been very inspirational, and I take them all to heart. Please enjoy this recipe and keep the comments and emails coming!
Recipe: Skillet Roasted Chicken
- 1 whole chicken (4 - 5 pounds)
- 1 stick salted butter, softened
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 1 bag fingerling potatoes, cut in half
- 1 bag baby carrots
- 3 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch basil
- 3 lemons
- Place your oven rack just below the middle position and preheat the oven to 450F. If you have a convection oven, leave the rack in middle.
- Loosen the skin between your chicken and the breast meat, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Set aside.
- In a food processor, add the stick of butter, head of garlic and as much basil as you like. Zest a few pinches of lemon rind into the mixture and process until you get a nice thick paste. Set aside.
- Combine the potatoes, carrots and oil in a bowl and toss a few times with a spoon to cover the vegetables with oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Place your skillet into the preheated oven and allow to heat up for 20 minutes. During this time, take the butter mixture and, using a spoon, press it between the skin of the chicken and the breast meat. Feel free to use your fingers if you dont mind getting some on your hands. You want to add the whole paste, as it will melt and season the bird as it cooks. Place a small amount of olive oil in your hands and coat the entire bird. Crack some salt and fresh pepper over the skin on the breast and back side. Slice a lemon in half, place it inside the cavity of the bird, and tie the legs together. We like to use candle wick string because it's inexpensive. Set the bird aside.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and set it on top of the stove. Pour the oil, potato, and carrot mixture into the pan and, using a wooden spoon, move the vegetables to the side so that there is enough room in the center for your bird. Take 2 more lemon halves and place them with the cut side down on top of the vegetables. Place the bird into the center of the pan, breast side up, and roast for 25 minutes.
- After roasting for 25 minutes, take the pan out and flip the chicken so that the breast side is down on the pan. Place the pan back in the oven and roast for 20 more minutes.
- Turn the chicken around again so that the breast is facing up and, using a baster, take all the fresh juices from the vegetables and thoroughly baste the bird. Continue to roast the chicken for another 15 - 25 minutes squirting some more fresh lemon juice onto the bird about 10 minutes in. The bird is done cooking when a meat thermometer registers 165 in the thickest part of the thigh.
- Allow the bird to rest for 5 - 15 minutes before serving. Cover the meat, potatoes and carrots with the liquid from the pan. Enjoy.
Number of servings (yield): 4