Bacon Roasted Chicken for Thankgiving?  Why not?

Thanksgiving by Walt Waldo Emerson

For each morning with its light,


For rest and shelter of the night,


For health and food,


For love and friends,


For everything thy goodness sends.

I like my own Thanksgiving cooking. I always have.
To say I make my favorite pumpkin pie is true.   And I’m not ashamed. 
I make handmade, homemade yeast rolls.  Every year.  With butter.  With white flour.
There are a couple of old vegetable casseroles that get brought out of the recipe attic…still.  One is a Gratinee of Cauliflower from SILVER PALATE OR SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES; I forget which.  When I’m not home for Thanksgiving, I still have to make it and take it to my friend, Jeanne.  She has to have it for Thanksgiving or sometime around there.  Another is an ancient broccoli casserole from a friend in one of my first jobs out of college.  (Michael Leventhal and National Trust for Historic Preservation, respectively.)   Michael Leventhal, where are you?   Another is a kind of yuck-looking, but great tasting spinach casserole that my son loved forever.  Figure a kid who loved spinach.
My dressing is mostly my mom’s, though I usually make another one that’s trendy (something with Grand Marnier and apricots out of BON APPETIT was one favorite) or something someone requests.  If I have an east-coaster, they’ll tag me for oyster dressing.  Southerners want corn bread whatever.

About my mom’s dressing:

My mom had a big bowl on top of her refrigerator.  For a month or so before Thanksgiving (or whenever she was making turkey), she’d throw ends of breads and hardened edges of cornbread up there.  By that Thursday, she had enough bread to make dressing.  Sausage, celery, onions, an egg or two, salt,  lots of black pepper, sage or poultry seasoning, broth that she cooked up using the neck, the gizzard and a few vegetables.  What that woman couldn’t do with nothing.  There was no recipe.  Recipes were for wimps or for women with money for things like cookbooks and magazines.  A woman with a brain could figure it out.  This went without saying.

This year, I’m traveling to St. Paul to cook with Sue.  I think we’re going to do the quickie dinner I blogged last year called An Intimate Thanksgiving.  You could do it, too.  It’s not instant, but it’s not all day either.  It doesn’t involve difficult gravies, stuffings or pies, but dotes on the essence of a holiday meal:  one good main dish, something on the side to compliment it, a pretty table, and a couple of good bottles of wine. 

Want more stuff?   If you had to, you could buy a pie.  If I were in the Springs, and not baking,  I’d order ahead (not much time) my pie from SMILEY’S  downtown.  Across from Poor Richard’s.  Best breakfast in town, too.  I’d then run down to La Baguette and beg a few rolls.  IF I wanted a bigger meal, but still didn’t feel like cooking.  I’d wine shop at Coaltrain and just throw myself on their mercy, though I’m sold on having three wines at Thanksgiving:  an off-dry Riesling, a great Pinot Noir (Oregon), and a couple of bottles of bubbly of some sort.  Everyone’s happy then, though you probably need soda, beer, iced tea, and juice or milk for the kiddoes if they’re present.


Cranberry Bread from  A CRANBERRY THANKGIVING.  Make extra for breakfast and gifts.  For recipe, click here.

But I thought I’d leave you with a few fresh ideas for another sort of Thankgiving this year–not for a crew (though you could double it), but a scrumptious roasted chicken recipe for four that you could use the rest of your life or every Sunday afternoon.  You’d have sandwiches without buying nitrate and sodium-filled lunchmeat.  (Could she shutup?)   Mashed potatoes with gravy, skinny (quick-cooking) green beans.  A loaf of cranberry bread and some sweet butter.  See above for pie or follow the directions on the can and put the pumpkin pie filling into buttered ramekins (custard dishes to some of you) and bake for a 20-30 minutes til they’re almost not quivery.  Cool somewhat or all the way and serve with whipped cream.  You could do that the night before.  Always refrigerate pumpkin pie or filling; it’s custard–full of milk/cream and eggs.  Here’s how the game plan goes:

First:  The Menu

Starters:  Nuts that must be cracked!  A couple of different cheeses, crackers, grapes.  Something crunchy like goldfish or tiny pretzels.

Mains:  Bacon Roasted Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
             Cranberry Bread and butter

Dessert:  Purchased pie or pumpkin pie filling baked in custard cups/ramekins

Wine:  Sparklers (Cava from Spain is nice), Riesling and Pinot Noir

                                                      What to do when:

1.  Set table the day before.  Make it nice.  You’re going to enjoy a good long while there.
2. Day before: Check your menu and make sure you have everything you need.  Make a list and go to the store very early.  Make the cranberry bread (see below), wrap it well and store it at room temperature. 


Yes, put out your pretty stuff or just things you like.  Pumpkins, candles… 

3.   2 Hours before Dinner time:   Start the chicken.  (Recipe below) It takes an hour and a half.  While it cooks, make the potatoes and the beans.  They can be covered on the counter and warmed right before you serve dinner.  Make the pumpkin custards if you didn’t do it the night before.  They’ll have to bake in the oven once you’ve turned the temperature down for the second phase of the roasting the chicken.
4.  While chicken roasts:   Uncork the red wine, place on table, and put the white wine and bubbly in the frig.  Make a big pitcher of iced water and put that in the frig.
5.  Put the bread in a basket (covered with plastic if you’re at altitude), the butter in its dish, grab and fill the salt and pepper, and put them all on the table.
6.  Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest, covered, about 20 minutes.  Make the gravy and warm up the other dishes.  While someone else carves the chicken, get everything else to the table.  You’ll be glad you only had another couple of dishes to serve by this time.  Have someone else fill the water glasses; it’s an easy job and someone has to do it.  Laugh if the gravy doesn’t cooperate.  Do not, I repeat, do not cry.  If it’s lumpy, put it in the blender or food processor, carefully.  If it tastes greasy, you can add more flour (beaten with water), but probably you need to start over.  Ditto for salty unless you just want to make a WHOLE lotta gravy.  If all else fails, pass the butter with the potatoes or drag out a container of sour cream and pretend you didn’t want gravy.  A jar of turkey gravy in the pantry might be a nice safety net.  I have never tasted jarred gravy, but the endcaps full of it in the supermarket let me know it’s very popular.  Heat it up, add some black pepper (I’m sure it needs something) and move on.

Enjoy your lovely meal with friends or family.  Smile often.  Gee, that’s good.  Give thanks…often.

7.  Clear table and serve coffee.  Let someone else do dishes.  Serve pumpkin custard and a little more bubbly. Give thanks you did it.

Bacon Roasted Chicken

1 large roasting chicken
3T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large orange, peeled and cut into eighths (use the peel for your cranberry bread)
1 large onion, ditto
4-5 strips thick bacon

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Get out your roasting pan.  I like a big, heavy one with a “V” rack.  Pull out all of the innards out of the chicken and do what you will with them.  I save necks and gizzards for stock and cook the liver and heart for the dogs.  Wash the chicken inside and out; pat dry with paper towels.  Salt and pepper the inside cavity very well. (1/2 t each salt and pepper)  Stuff the cavity with the orange and onion segments.  Drizzle the bird with the olive oil and, using your hands, make sure it’s covered on all sides with a good coating of oil.  Dust the skin of the chicken well with salt and pepper.  Lay the bacon strips across the breast of the chicken.  No need to toothpick them or anything.  Place the chicken in the roaster and on the rack.  Grasping each wing individually, turn it backwards and under so that it stays underneath the chicken.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.  Tear off a piece of foil that will cover the chicken plus a little extra and “tent” the chicken so it doesn’t kill your oven or catch it on fire.  Place roasting pan in oven and set timer for 30 minutes.   After 30 minutes, lower heat to 350 and roast another hour or so (at altitude) or until breast temperature is 160 F.   (Take foil off for last 15 minutes or so.) You can also tell if the bird’s done by jiggling the legs; if they wiggle really easily, it’s done or close to it.  You can try sticking a serving fork in between the  body of the chicken and the leg/thigh.  If juices run clear, it’s done.  If there’s a lot of red or pink running, give it a while longer.  Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes or so covered on a platter or tray. (Carve after resting.)  In the meantime, make the gravy:

Gravy:

In a skillet, place about 4T drippings and fat from the bottom of the roasting pan.  Salt and pepper it well and bring up the heat to about medium-high. If desired, you can, at this point saute 1/2 c finely chopped onions for a  few minutes until browned and softened. With a fork or whisk, “whisk” in about 3 T flour.  Keep whisking and cook that flour for 2 minutes or so.  Slowly add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and cook for 3-5 minutes until thickened.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  If too thick, add some more broth or water.  If too thin, whisk a tablespoon of flour into a 1/4 cup of water and drizzle that into the gravy, stirring all the while. Taste again and adjust seasonings.  Add about a tablespoon of brandy, cook for one minute, and serve piping hot.  This is the crux of Ina Garten’s chicken gravy that she uses for turkey when she’s just roasted a breast.  She may have a written recipe for it; I don’t know. (I found it and linked it; it doesn’t read the same as  my memory!)  This is how I remember her talking about it and this is how I make it sometimes.  It works and it’s darned good.  If it just lacks something, try adding a few (careful) drops of hot sauce.  In fact, it’s worth freezing chicken drippings in order to have the fixings for this gravy whenever you want it.

Green Beans or Haricots Verts (thin French beans)

If you like pecans in your beans, toast 1/4 c chopped pecans in a small skillet on low for 10 minutes and set aside.

Fill a 3-4 qt saucepan  2/3 full of salted, peppered water.  Add a slivered large onion.  Bring to a boil over high heat, covered, and add the cleaned and trimmed pound of green beans.  (Haricots verts won’t need trimming.)  Let cook 10-15 minutes until done, but a little crunchy in the middle.  If you’d like them “grandma style,” continue cooking until as soft as you’d like.  Drain and reserve until the chicken is done.  To reheat, place beans and onions back in the saucepan with 2t butter and warm over medium heat until hot and bubbly, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings.  You can add a 1/4 c chopped, roasted pecans if you’d like.  Serve hot.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Fill a 4 qt small stockpot  half  full of well-salted and peppered water.  Place 2 pounds of small, new red potatoes and 4 whole, peeled cloves of garlic in the water.  Bring water and potatoes to a full boil and reduce a bit so water doesn’t boil over.  Boil until tender, about fifteen minutes.  Drain.  Return to pan, add 2/3 c milk, 2T butter, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper, and mash coarsely with a hand-held potato masher.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cover until chicken is done.  Reheat on low heat, watching carefully, stirring, and adding a little more milk if needed.


Here’s one of my versions w/ chocolate chips, baked in baby loaf pans for 30 minutes or so at 350 F.

Cranberry Bread Notes

I use the recipe from A Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wendy and Harry Devlin (out of print now) but it’s worth a little talking about changes:

1.  You can leave out the raisins and use just 1 1/2 c cranberries.
2.  You can leave out the raisins and add 1/2 c milk chocolate chips.
3.  Nuts?  Up to you.
4.  Very interesting:  you can leave out the butter entirely and have a fat-free bread (with the exception of the fat with which you grease the pan.)  Make sure you don’t overbake the fat free bread.  I found this out by mistake!!
5.  The recipe calls for 1t orange rind; I triple that to 1tablespoon.

Blessings, my friends, as you do whatever you do for Thankgiving.  We have a couple of friends who never cook, but always go to the movies!

Sing a new song,
Alyce