The Last (Springtime) Supper

..or, Wherein I Dispatch a Chicken in Under Three Minutes.

Summer is just around the corner, but we are finally starting to see the really good springtime-y local produce at our favorite high(er) end grocery store, New Seasons. I really should be getting paid by those sumbitches, since I spend so much money there already and then just turn around and tell everyone how awesome their stuff is.

Anyways, after a month or two of asking, begging, even flirting with the produce guy (I may be over 30, but the bat of an eyelash still gets me pretty far), New Seasons got morels. Yay! I didn’t even have to drive five hours and pick them myself! They also have those perfect garlic scapes and local asparagus that is green and slender as a fairy’s wand (okay, pardon the reference, but the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released last week and is partially to blame for my recent absence).

We didn’t have any miniatures and had to use weird shit that I collect like dead bugs and roadkill teeth. Oh, don’t look at me like that.

I picked up a 3-pound roaster and, having not given myself enough time to roast a whole chicken (and recalling the “pink juice” debacle), decided I would need to break it down. Since I had done this once before (last Thanksgiving, on the turkey), and had seen it done on TV at least a million times, I figured I could give it a go. I honed my blade against the cold steel with a few quick swipes and set to it.

It was a breeze! Less than three minutes later, I had four pieces of chicken, ready for the pan. Okay, I ended up leaving a little more scrap of breast meat on the sternum than I’d intended, but I did manage to keep the wing attached to the breast and the skin was intact. The legs were a quick slice (the skin), pop (the joint) and snip (the tendon) to victory. Now I have a nice clean carcass waiting for a roast and a bath in a stock pot. I felt like such a champion! Like Hung in that one quickfire challenge in last season’s Top Chef! Except with only one chicken and way more time!

I gave the parts a nice massage of olive oil, crushed garlic, the zest of a lemon and a squonch of lemon thyme and lemon balm from the garden. A fat pinch of kosher salt and lots of pepper, and let it sit while you get the rest of your prep done.

My new favorite way to cook chicken is to sear it in a screaming-hot grill pan (so hot the skin squeals and curls back on itself), then flip when there’s some good maillard and grill marks on it, and stick it in the oven for ~20 minutes. This also works quite well to roast a few veggies (scallions and zucchini come to mind) – they get a little grill mark and then roast up soft with crispy edges in the chicken fat.

The vegetables were treated simply: saute with some minced shallot in good French butter, deglaze the browned butter with a splash of Pinot Grigio, then some fresh thyme and high heat until the wine reduces to a thin glaze. Finish with a nice crunchy sea salt. The garlic scapes are such a wonderful green vegetable: the stems stay relatively crisp not unlike a mildly alliaceous asparagus, and the heads go tender like a roasted garlicky Brussels sprout. If you can find them (or grow them, like I am this year), I highly recommend it.

Since I am a strict Dinner=Protein+Green Veg+Starch kind of person (hell of old school), I made a buttery smash of baby white potatoes and the last of my nettle-pumpkin seed pesto.

So, sorry I’ve been out all week! I was also in central Oregon for a couple days, and will post about the delicious pupusas and platanos con frijoles y crema that I ate in Maupin soon. First, I have some goblins to slay.