This week’s Sunday Dinner is my ultimate comfort food, is what I would request for my last meal (provided either I can prepare it myself or can reincarnate my grandfather to make it for me), and is the official birthday dinner for my sister. Welcome to the gastronomic utopia that is: chicken and orzo.
1 whole chicken (this one is a little bit more than 6 pounds)
2 sticks unsalted butter (melted)
Juice of 4 large lemons (reserve 3 lemon halves after juicing)
8 – 10 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion (cut into about 6-8 large chunks)
8 – 10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 – 12 sprigs fresh oregano
12 – 16 basil leaves
2 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
1 lb. orzo pasta
ground black pepper
About 8″ of kitchen twine
dried basil, thyme and oregano (optional)
garlic powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
First prepare the ingredients that will go into the chicken. Melt the butter. Gather the oregano, thyme and basil. Juice your lemons, then drop 3 lemon halves into the lemon juice. Peel the garlic. Peel and cut the onion. Grab your salt and pepper and keep near your work area.
You will need a roasting pan. I prefer one that has a grate in it, because it allows heat to circulate under the chicken, and it prevents the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan. But, a roasting pan without a grate it fine. What’s important is that your pan is large enough to hold the chicken while still allowing a little clearance around the circumference (e.g., the chicken should not touch the sides of the pan).
Make sure you clean out the chicken’s neck and stomach cavities. I discard the heart, liver, kidneys and neck. Rinse the chicken in cool water (inside and out) then pat dry with paper towels.
Stuff the lemon halves, onion, garlic, oregano, basil and thyme into the chicken’s stomach cavity. You want to pack these ingredients in so that the entire cavity is filled. You may want also to loosen the skin a bit and slide some of the garlic and herbs under it.
The point of this is twofold. First, filling the stomach cavity keeps the chicken from drying out while roasting. Second, doing this infuses the chicken with great flavor.
Once you’ve stuffed the chicken, you need to truss it. Sort of. I do a kind of cheap truss, which is designed only to keep all that stuff you just … um … stuffed … into the chicken inside. You’ll need some kitchen twine:
Basically, you fold the flap of skin/fat on the outside of the cavity over the opening, then pull the drumsticks together to keep that in place. Tie the legs together in a figure-eight and secure with a knot.
Place the trussed chicken into the roasting pan breast-side up. Pour the melted butter over the chicken to cover the entire bird. You can use a pastry brush to spread butter around if needed.
Now, sprinkle the top of the chicken with salt and pepper. I also added a little dried oregano, garlic powder and basil to mine. (NOTE: Use only garlic powder. Do NOT use garlic salt. The only reason garlic salt even exists is for popcorn.)
Tent your roasting pan with foil (or the lid) and place in the oven. Roasting time is approximately 15 minutes per pound, but I really, really, really encourage you to use a meat thermometer to ensure you don’t under or overcook. Ideal temperature (measured by inserting the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and avoiding bone) is 170°F.
When the chicken is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
While the chicken is resting, prepare the orzo. Fill a large pot with water, a four-finger pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil and about one-quarter of the lemon juice. Place on stove to boil.
When water comes to boil, add the orzo. Cook about 9 minutes – only to al dente. Drain the orzo, then return to pot. Pour the remaining lemon juice over the orzo and stir to blend.
Strain the drippings from your roasting pan to remove any solids and reserve the liquid. Pour the strained liquid over the orzo and stir to blend.
I like to serve this with steamed carrots and string beans. This time, though, I had only carrots and I roasted them for 45 minutes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I also made a tossed green salad of red-leaf lettuce, diced Vidalia onion, sliced cucumbers, dressed with an Italian vinaigrette.
But, the most important addition to this meal – and this cannot be understated – is the garlic bread. This garlic bread is so good, my husband is a little bit pissed off I am sharing the recipe. I will warn you, though, that the reason the garlic bread is so delish is that it is basically a ton of butter with a side of bread. It is not for the weak of heart or wide of waist. Unless, of course, you want to die with an enormous smile on your face and an immensely satisfied belly.
Garlic Bread Ingredients
1 large loaf French bread (white or wheat okay, but not sour) (Seriously, though, wheat bread? I mean, what’s the point? Unless, you know, it eases your conscience a little …)
2 sticks salted butter
Melt the butter in a shallow skillet over low heat. Slice the French bread into 1/2″-thick slices. Dunk one side of each slice in the melted butter. Place buttered slices on cookie sheet.
Sprinkle the buttered slices with garlic powder, basil and oregano to taste. (“To taste” in my house means “a lot.”)
Broil on top rack of oven for about 5 minutes or until tops look golden and toasty. WATCH WHILE BROILING. There is about a millisecond between perfectly toasted and frantically waving a kitchen towel around underneath the smoke detector.
Before you sit down to eat, take a moment to inhale deeply. Smell that? Smells like a giant hug, right? Isn’t that marvelous?