Thursday, May 1, 2008

Roast Chicken with Watercress

I always hesitate when it comes to posting following a Daring Bakers challenge. I enjoy the process so much, the sneakiness, the anticipation... that I feel like a kid a few days after Christmas... you know what I mean? It all starts over each month, but it weirds me out the few days after.

To get back in the saddle, I bring you a meal I made last Saturday. A meal I am really excited about. I don't often roast chickens... I don't often roast any whole birds, if we're going off specifics here. I don't know why this recipe spoke to me, but I am pleased that it did. Growing up, my grandmother would often roast chickens, and I really loved how the smell filled the house. My hope was to replicate that memory.

I read the reviews of this recipe online and followed their tweak recommendations (and added a couple of my own.) The recipe as written in Bon Appetit provided no direction for dressing the watercress. A reviewer suggested a lemony balsamic vinaigrette, and I suggest using it as well. The brightness of the dressing was quite refreshing atop the peppery watercress.

Rather than baste with chicken juices, I basted with extra butter. Gluttonous, I know, but if you knew how clutzy I am, and how unconducive to juice-basting my roasting rack was, you too would avoid using the chicken jus. That, and I like a butter-crisped skin. Who doesn't? The chicken roasted for about 85 minutes, even though it was just a 3.5 pounder. I would imagine it took longer because of all the oven-opening I did just to smear butter all over it. Heh. The butter/garlic/watercress under the skin did a beautiful job of flavoring the meat. I wouldn't have thought the watercress could do it - I don't know why - but the sharp pepperiness was definitely there in the chicken.

Don't you worry, though. I put that chicken jus to work! I boiled some small jeweled potatoes. When roasted, I removed the chicken to rest and placed the roasting pan on the stove, over medium heat. To the pan, I added the cooked potatoes. I don't know why I did it - I was just standing there, staring at the jus, and then the potatoes and then back again... and I had to throw them in. And whoa... these tasty potatoes alone are enough reason for me to roast more chickens! The spuds picked up the meaty goodness of the jus and soaked it in and they were amazing. Amazing.

This little chicken dish made my whole weekend. I'd been feeling crummy all week, the weather was poopy over the weekend, and this meal really hit the spot. The chicken, watercress and potatoes were terrific, but so was the comforting feel of the apartment once dinner was ready.

Roast Chicken with Watercress
Adapted from: Bon Appétit Magazine, May 1993

You can turn this into a main-course salad for brunch, lunch or a warm-weather supper by simply drizzling vinaigrette over the sliced chicken and watercress.

Servings: Serves 4.

1 onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 4-pound chicken
1 large bunch watercress, trimmed (and by large, I mean really large. Get two if the bunches aren't big)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
¼ cup olive oil

Balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, juice and zest
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place onion and garlic inside chicken cavity. Slide fingertips between chicken breast skin and meat to loosen skin. Mix garlic and 1/4 cup butter, and stuff with half of watercress (chopped) under skin. Tie chicken lets together. Place chicken in roasting pan. Rub olive oil over chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake chicken until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced, basting every 15 minutes with pats of butter, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter. Let stand 10 minutes.

Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with remaining watercress. Top salad with sliced chicken and serve.


farida said...

I like roast chicken recipes. This one sounds interesting and not that difficult to make. Looks yummy! Thanks for the recipe.

Indigo said...

I LOVE the smell of roast chicken, and this sounds gorgeous ^__^

Deborah said...

I actually just roasted my first chicken not too long ago. I loved it! I have actually never had watercress before, but have been looking for it, as another recipe I've been wanting to try has it. I hope I can find it soon!

giz said...

Roast chicken is a staple for me but I've never worked with watercress. I was looking at it the other day with a friend and we both agreed it was time to try creating something with it. Now I will.

PheMom said...

I love roast chicken! This looks beautiful.