Fannies, chicken butts and asstastic articles feature in this week’s not-overly-civilized post.
Last week, for whatever reason, The Atlantic published a seriously asstastic article by Caitlin Flanagan blaming Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard program for a surprising—and truly ridiculous—variety of ills. Many thoughtful people have already weighed in on this discussion, and many of them have much greater personal experience with the Edible Schoolyard than I do. Please have a look through those posts if you’re interested in learning more.
I find that often these days, when I read something and it makes me very angry, I can hardly put two words together to rebut it. Maybe it’s because when you spend time around young kids, there’s a lot of raw emotion flying around on a regular basis. Sometimes too much. And who wants to spend their adult time immersed in their own raw emotion? Not me, not now. So I’ll leave the strongly felt and well-reasoned rebuttals to others.
But speaking of spending time with young kids, it just so happened that two days before the hatchet job, The Kindergartner and I had decided to make a dinner together from Alice Waters’ wonderful children’s cookbook Fanny at Chez Panisse. Roast chicken with garlic croutons on a simple lettuce salad with vinaigrette. Kids’ book or no, it was one of the most delicious meals I’ve cooked in a long time. But the result was almost an afterthought, since the process of cooking together—anticipating, planning, shopping, chopping, roasting and serving—was the main event of the day. My kid attends a public, urban kindergarten program which, for all its tremendous strengths, has no edible schoolyard program (it barely has an edible school lunch program). So we spend a lot of time learning about where food comes from, and what to do with it, at home.
Fanny’s chicken, which is rubbed with a savory paste of olive oil, garlic and herbs before roasting, was a big hit with kids and adults alike. We served it, as recommended, with a few slices of baguette drizzled with olive oil, toasted in a low oven and then rubbed with a clove of garlic, on some simple greens, with a shallot vinaigrette and some of the defatted pan juices poured overtop. The Kindergartner and I had a delightful time putting the meal together, and no one had any complaints, except one. I realized after the chickens were devoured that my photo shows the chickens not in their usual dignified position, but with butts sticking up in the air, the way babies sometimes sleep. I wish I could say I’d thought this out and decided to have Alice’s chickens mooning Caitlin Flanagan. You know what, actually? We’ll go with that.
[Private note to self: Guess what, chicken butt? Instead of laying into the edible schoolyard programs, maybe we should expand them to include a section on chicken raising and decorum. And maybe I should get myself enrolled in one of them, stat.]
Roast Chicken with Herbs
Adapted from Fanny at Chez Panisse. The original recipe makes one chicken, but why not roast two? It takes about the same amount of time, and you’ll eat for a week on the leftovers.
2 3- to 4-pound chickens
2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Set the chickens on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and cut out the two pockets of fat tucked just inside the opening to each chicken’s cavity.
2. Combine the rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic in a mortar, and smash it all into a paste with a pestle. (Alternatively, use the side of a chef’s knife.) Divide the paste between the two chickens and rub it all over the skin.
3. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes with the breast side up. Then flip it and cook 20 minutes more, breast side down. Turn it over again and cook for an additional 20 minutes, breast side up. For a smaller chicken, this may be all the time you need. If it’s closer to 4 pounds, you’ll need an additional 20 or so minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165° F.
4. Let the chickens rest on a cutting board, tented with foil, for 15 minutes. Don’t skip this step! Pour the juices into a small pitcher and skim off the clear fat from the top. To serve, place some simple greens on each plate, arrange a piece of chicken and a few garlic croutons on top, and drizzle liberally with both shallot vinaigrette (1 minced shallot, 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, 5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper whisked together) and pan juices.