I have a culinary to-do list and one of the top items was roasting a chicken. I say “was” because I finally got a roasting pan so as my contribution to the Mother’s Day feast I got to tick that chicken-roasting dream off my list.
Roast chicken is pretty much the best thing ever: eat it hot in winter, nibbled on it cold in summer, sliced for sandwiches, cut in chunks for pasta salad, a leg or a thigh with a green salad is a meal. When you’ve finished picking it clean, the carcass can be used for stock. The giblets are good lightly sautéed with butter and served with a slice of garlic toast.
One of the impetuses (impetii?) for the Great Chicken Roasting Project was a sale on whole chickens at the local grocery. At 39¢/lb I couldn’t help myself- I just had to have a 6lb birdie, immediately, because who knew when I’d be called upon to prepare one? Besides which, I figured it was time to invest in a roasting pan: I’d already ruined a very nice cookie sheet roasting vegetables, and since I planned on doing more cooking stead of less, I might as well see what I could find in the way of a good roasting pan.
When I told the manager of the kitchen goods store I worked at over the holidays what I was thinking, I was told I should to buy the excellent, tippy-top-of-the-line Mauviel M’Cook roasting pan. According to the manager, a plain-spoken woman who knew her stuff, it would not only last me the rest of my natural life, but like a Patek Philippe watch I would be buying a legacy piece. My children’s grandchildren would be roasting up space monkey brains and solar-powered carrots in this thing for centuries to come. Which was great, but I was trying to pay bills and buy Christmas presents off a $10/hr paycheck.
I tried to buy a $25 Chicago Metallic- your basic, dark coated, starter pan with a rack- and was immediately irradiated with disapproval waves. Clearly I was joking as this was not a serious business pan for a serious business cook. So I waited until the manager had a day off, went back, and bought the CM pan with a gift card.
To quote Lance Armstrong, it’s not about the pan. The Mauviel is gorgeous and shiny and heats evenly and comes with a sturdy rack that looks like you could hang a VW full of celebrity chefs from it. It bespeaks Norman Rockwellian feasts- or, considering the cost, more like Rockefellerian. But I didn’t have to sell a kidney or save for months to buy the Chicago Metallic, and better yet if I destroy the thing it’s no big deal. If I destroyed the Mauviel I’d have to write a letter to my future progeny apologizing for ruining their inheritance.
I roasted my first chicken for Mother’s Day: sliding two tablespoons of softened butter under the skin of the breast and smooshing it around, brushing the bird with EVOO on both sides and sprinkling liberally with Herbes de Provence (which I buy in bulk from the local co-op), finishing it off with a pinch of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper. Halfway through the cooking process I slid the pan out and flipped the thing using a carving fork (horror!) and bread knife (tragedy!). It came out just fine.
Someday that Mauviel will be mine. I will pull it out of the oven, laden with a roast and red skinned potatoes, and with the first bite my guests will know that I have stepped up my culinary game. But in the meantime I’ve made roasted tomatoes and a batch of Brussels sprouts with sea salt that were pretty darn good…