Roast Chickens from, and a little much-needed love for, Chez Panisse

Fannies, chicken butts and asstastic articles feature in this week’s not-overly-civilized post.

Chez Panisse ChickensLast 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.

  • Looks delicious! Does your kindergartner want to teach my kindergartner how to make such a yummy meal?! :o) and I totally dig the chicken butt pic!ReplyCancel

  • I read and was very aggravated about Caitlin F’s article – very upsetting. I loved her book (The Hell With All That) and thought she was misunderstood, but now truly think she is just a counter-culture attention seeker.

    We need an edible schoolyard here in Hoboken. I am going to think this through and come back with a proposal, since my kid will be eating from the same barely edible school lunch program next year. Project.

    You might be interested in this blog, which is where I got wind of CF’s piece earlier this week.

  • Hi Julie, that would be such a great project. I started looking into it at one point for this year but never followed through. This website struck me as a useful starting point, and there are many others like it out there. I know you don’t have a ton of time on your hands these days, but I bet this is something lots of people would want to help with. The PTA at Brandt this year has done a seriously admirable job in other areas!ReplyCancel

  • Daphne

    I wish people who aren’t educators/researchers would remember that there are those who devote their life to figuring out what helps kids optimally learn and develop – one of the biggest obstacles to optimal learning is sitting on ones butt all day – taking a walk out to the garden to fatten the butts of some chickens – or any activity that brings circulation to the body and a little extra oxogen to the brain – increases attention, memory……and learning. Take a look at Spark – sometime, by John Ratey and Eric Hagerman – they review the research on this – trying to be more politically correct than the next person is problematic when uninformed by facts. O.k – a disclaimer – I saw the first edible school yard grow during my years in Berkeley – and it is a beautiful thing that helped MLK middle school regain its pride. Who is to say that advancement = being as far away from the soil as possible. That just makes me really really mad! It makes me want to throw tomatoes at someone – but since I never learned how to garden – I will just have to haul over to a local store an buy some grown in a third world country and shipped here using it’s weight in CO2 emissions. Too bad that I am such a modern woman that I also have a fear of canning a tomato, never mind growing one……..hmmmn.ReplyCancel

  • […] Don’t worry, there won’t be any toppled-over chickens gracing these pages (well, except these, but they resulted from a different kind of anatomical challenge). Now seems like as good a time as […]ReplyCancel

  • […] for dinner? My kid only likes bread, yellow peanut M&Ms, and the left chicken leg when the butt side is facing up.” I tend to mutter some lame response about how at least he likes peanuts, which is good!, […]ReplyCancel

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