Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Psycho Chicken

Something funny happened in the past week or so... I got back into touch with an old friend. It's not really so strange that we got back in touch; it's more the manner in which it happened that threw me off. I'd just finished conceptualizing the text for this posting (which just happens to talk about Gail's influence on my cooking). And, when I logged onto Facebook, there she was! Like I'd conjured her somehow with my words.

Gail and I met each other in the late nineties, and we were dedicated email pals for years. We wrote, exchanged cooking tips, and talked about life. For the past few years we'd fallen out of touch. And it made me pretty sad. I missed her wit. Her way with words. Above all, I missed her recipes.

We may have differed in our opinions about food (she preferred rice where I favored potatoes), but I think we shared an appreciation for "the good stuff." I'd brief her on my day's events and tip her off to the recipe for duck that I'd made for Thanksgiving dinner -- the one with the seriously crisp skin and the meltingly tender breast meat. She'd amuse me with stories of her Aunt Gerda, who entertained with gusto, and share recipes for mango bread, empanadas, and ginger cookies (a staple around the holidays... one of those fantastic cookies that seriously gets better with age).

Gail taught me a great deal about cooking. She taught me how to make a killer clam sauce with canned clams. She reminded me that planning large events is a snap -- as long as you keep a list of what to do when. Most of all, she gave me an appreciation for the little things that go into a dish that make the final product truly outstanding. One of my favorite "Gail recipes" is a simple, roasted chicken. It's not fussy. But, it's seriously fabulous. And it never fails to make me smile when I make it.

It starts out innocently enough. With an ordinary chicken. A big knife. A bit of garlic. You'd never really suspect that violence would ensue.
But it does. At first, you're a little bit uncomfortable stabbing that poor chicken. But, eventually, you kinda get into it. And the soundtrack to the movie "Psycho" starts playing in your head. You might start feeling the tension of the day wearing off. And you might end up going a little bit overboard with your hacking. But, somehow, that's alright. Becuase you know it's going to pay off in the end.
You mix together a bit of apple cider vinegar with a healthy dose of garlic and some thyme leaves.
And you rub it all over the chicken -- being sure to get it on the inside of the carcas and into all those little nooks and crannies that you made with your knife. I like to stuff a half of a spent lemon into the cavity if I have one; but, everything turns out just fine without it.
When you're ready to put the chicken in the oven, you'll want to open a nice bottle of dry white wine. Yeah -- some of it is for drinking; but, you also want to baste the chicken with a bit of the wine every 20 or 30 minutes while it's in the oven.
When the chicken comes out, it will be lovely and browned, and it will smell so incredible that you'll be just dying to taste it. But, be patient.
I like to rest my chicken for a bit after he comes out of the oven. Cover him up with a nice piece of foil, if you like. He'll stay plenty warm.
Gail would always say that the most important part of the recipe is in the carving. If the chicken is cooked properly, it should flow with fantastic, flavorful juices as you carve. Dredge each slice of meat in the juices before you serve the chicken -- that's where all the lovely garlicky flavor is. And if you miss this step, you've missed the point.
Best chicken ever. We served this particular bird with some sauteed kale and a bit of red wehani rice pilaf.
Psycho Chicken is less about ingredients than it is a technique-- it is about a slashing and slathering method of infusing flavor into the chicken, then dredging the meat in the juices after cooking. Thanks to Gail, I learned that early on.

Psycho Chicken

We all have people like Gail in our lives -- who inspire us and leave us with a little something that expands our repertoire and improves our cooking. Who's your "Gail"?

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  1. gotta love facebook! Love the post and the awesome recipe. The idea of stabbing a chicken is funny....or psycho!

    My friend Katie is my kitchen muse...she never has a recipe...she just throws things together and makes wonderful meals.

  2. Rather than the psycho theme going through my head, I have the Talking Heads parody going through my head. "Psycho Chicken--what the ****?
    Bwak bwak bwak bwaaak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwaaak bwak
    Better run run run run run run run away"

    I love roast chicken. It tops my list of comfort foods. If I didn't have to share these with my husband, I would just rip the whole thing apart and eat it with my bare hands.

  3. Awww shucks, Lori. Thanks for remaining true to the original and making it look so purdy in the photos. I have to tell you though I'm a little worried about how comfortable Paul's hand looks wielding that knife!

  4. Your apple cider garlic rub sounds really fantastic. We'll keep that in mind for our next adventure in chicken.

  5. This is just hilarious. Psycho chicken!

  6. This isn't the first time I've heard of piercing the flesh and skin of the bird... but now I'm taking it seriously. I've always though if you do that, the breast will dry out faster...

    Next time we defrost a bird, I'll give it a whirl!

  7. I love this story! Though I can't relate to the chicken part, as you know, I can relate to the Gail portion. I just got back in touch with a friend that I had fallen out of contact with too. Like you, she and I met in the 90s and were email pals, and her voice was singular. We both knew little about cooking at that point but nevertheless we both did it a lot. I missed her a lot when we fell out of touch. FB got us back in touch, and some things never change: we still talk mostly about food. In fact, we make jokes about how much of our conversation is about food.

    I'm glad you got back in touch with Gail, and thanks for sharing your story!

  8. Short (dis)Order...I too had the Talking Heads" in my head, especially after viewing the "Lobster Killer" scene in "Julie and Julia." I like your modification of the first line...that someone would be concerned about inter-species rhymes just makes my day!

    Oh yeah, the bird itself looks good too...

  9. that knife picture is hilarious :)

  10. Love it, great story. So glad you guys reconnected!

  11. Oh my. That looks stunning. I'm trying that method the next time I make a chicken.

  12. Even though I was a little shocked (in a good shivery way) by that knife plunging into that chicken, it looks plain awesome!

    I used to have a friend like your Gail, but she's long gone. Our best creations together were kale soup and lasagna. I still miss her a wicked amount.

    I've often has the same experience of thinking of someone and then they call. So cool...it's like the energy of our thoughts conjurs them.

    LOVE the duck stories. You guys are my heros.

  13. Your "Gailstory" reminded me of my 'Gail' who is actually called Jacqueline. With the exception that we haven't really been out of touch, not since we met about 27 years ago, but she is the one who first brought me into contact with cooking and while we don't always see eachother very often, I love her to bits.. :)

    I love your psycho chicken!

  14. Wow my mouth is watering reading this post ;) It sounds so delicious! How nice you were able to find your lost friend. The internet is great for that isn't it?? :)

  15. LOve the apple cider garlic rub on this!! Your chicken looks perfectly roasted. LOVE the name of it!

  16. I enjoyed this story. We all have people in our lives that inspire us to do things that we love more, or to discover we really have a passion for something new. Thanks for sharing the story.

    By the way, awesome roasted chicken recipe!


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