Dawn of the Dead Chicken and a Side of White Beans

There is probably no dish as prosaic–or as apt to get a thumbs up from the family–as roast chicken. In my grandmother’s day, this was Sunday-dinner food, but these days, I often make it for a weeknight–with some adjustments that Grandma Rose never thought necessary.

For one thing, cutting out the bird’s backbone with kitchen shears and roasting it flat shaves at least 30 minutes off the cooking time, depending on the size of the bird in question. The goal is super-crispy skin, which is achieved by high heat and a little (very little, due to my distractibility) basting. I had some fresh lemon-thyme, which I grow in pots, and stuck it under the breast skin to flavor the bird. This is unnecessary, but adds a gruesome touch to the prep–thus the title of the post, courtesy of Gabe, who was observing. Other than that, a cut lemon, salt, pepper, and garlic powder are all I typically use to flavor the chicken. Use a good-quality natural, free-range, or organic chicken.

By the way, under no circumstances should you throw away the backbone. Put it, with the wing tips and the neck, rinsed and dried with a paper towel, in a freezer bag and make chicken stock once you have saved up enough parts. Do you know what they charge for necks and backs at the supermarket? (Do I smell a future post?) Lastly, take pity upon the poor dog and fry up the liver and heart in some chicken fat snipped from the carcass. He deserves it.

Bonus: Now that there is nothing left to bury, this chick will never come back to haunt you.

The beans are built on a foundation of bacon fat and olive oil. Grandma Rose always saved her bacon drippings, as does my father, as do I. If you want to add flavor to soup, spaghetti sauce, beans, or any number of things, it is the most bang for the buck you can get. The little saucer in my fridge gets a pretty steady rotation, because French-Canadians love their cochon.

Roast Chicken:
1 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken (mine was over 5 pounds)
1/2 lemon, cut in half
2 large sprigs fresh thyme (totally optional)
1 teaspoon salt
several grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Remove the giblets, etc. from the interior of the chicken. Reserve. Rinse the chicken inside and out in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels (yes, the inside, too). On a large cutting board, turn the chicken on it’s stomach and cut up both sides of the backbone to remove.

Snip off the wing tips, too. Place the chicken breast side up on a roasting pan large enough to hold it. Press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten. Work your fingers under the breast skin and push the a thyme sprig into the pocket over each breast.

Squeeze the juice from the lemon and rub the cut side all over the bird. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and garlic powder liberally over the skin.

Roast in a 425 degree oven for about an hour, or until the skin is crisp and the juices from the thigh run clear.

White Beans:
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1 large clove garlic smashed lightly with the flat of a knife
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 or 2 pinch red pepper flakes
2 cans cannellini or other white beans, with their liquid
1/4 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce
Salt, to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

Heat the bacon fat and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and red pepper. Saute until the vegetables are soft and light golden in color. Add the beans with their liquid. Add the sriracha. Simmer, for about 30 minutes, until much of the liquid has evaporated, but the beans are still moist. Salt to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


9 thoughts on “Dawn of the Dead Chicken and a Side of White Beans

  1. Hi Suzanne,

    This blog is fabulous. Those white beans look SO good. My boys won’t eat beans, but it’s their loss. I’m still going to try that recipe. I hope your kids know what a wonderful mom they have.

    Al my best,

    P.S. I still have your chili recipe from 1980.

      1. Well, I think it’s your handwriting. Campbell’s mushroom soup is not an ingredient, so it couldn’t have been Betsey’s.

        Do you remember $40/week for groceries for 4 girls? Taking my Ford Pinto to the food co-op and making sure the egg cartons didn’t have creepy stow-aways inside? I think the good intentions lasted about 4 weeks. I then lived on day-old bagels from a deli in Coolidge Corner.

  2. Another person obsessed with chicken!!!!! I recently wrote a blog post about European Chicken Night and I will definitely add your version of roast chicken to the mix. And I’ll subscribe to you too (it can indeed be lonely in the blogosphere). By the way, heard about you via Betsey Curran, who shared your post on Linked In. Glad to make your acquaintance. Chicken Lovers of the World, Unite!!!!

    1. Hmm, , I don’t know if I’m obsessed, but I do cook a lot of chicken. Waiting in the wings (pun!) is the infamous chicken cacciatore recipe which got me blogging in the first place. I think it did. Lately, I seem to be obsessed with piecrust, having finally mastered that item. Chicken pot pie is coming, too! Thanks so much for your support–and Betsey Curran as well, a great former colleague.

  3. I made the Julia Child-recommended recipe last night and I found it too labor-intensive (especially on a weeknight) for the end result. Maybe you could share your similar, rustic recipe, especially if it’s less time consuming.

    I’m written two chicken-related blog posts in the past two weeks, so am also imposing a chicken blog moratorium on myself. That said, chicken is an excellent muse. 🙂

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