It has often been said that if you have a house you want to sell you should bake cookies to entice prospective buyers. I have a deep belief that they would be even further seduced by the scents arising from a chicken roasting to a crackle skinned doneness in the oven. There are few things that I do in my kitchen at home that speak to my basic cooking instincts like roasting a chicken.
There is something so entirely satisfying about readying the bird for the oven; anointing it with a bit of butter, or olive oil or a simple squeeze of lemon; filling it's innards with that same split lemon, or sprigs of fresh rosemary and/or thyme, or several cloves of partially crushed garlic, or, all of the above. I forego the roasting rack that goes beneath the bird and instead build a celebratory pyre of sliced carrots, wedges of onion and more peeled garlic cloves. The bird goes on top and then into the hot oven.
And then, for that proscribed amount of time, perhaps 45 minutes for a smaller specimen, perhaps up to an hour and twenty minutes for a four and a half pound bird, your time is your own. It is just you and that book, or some perfect chicken roasting music (or for me, both) and the smells that begin to waft from the oven. There is of course, the interruption about twenty minutes into the process for the opening of the over door (ahh, more lovely smells) and the placing of the halved or quartered small potatoes around the bird, but it is, if well planned, brief.
The bird is in the oven, the book is in the lap, Bill Frisell is noodling exquisitely on his guitar and all is right with the world. If this isn't cheap and significant therapy, I'm not sure what to recommend that would be. It works wonderfully if it is cold and rainy outside, but I found out yesterday, it works just as well on a tropical late afternoon in Costa Rica. I sat on the back patio, and the book, the music and the smells were all just as they should have been.
It was clear that the climate has no influence on the effect of the roasting chicken on the psyche and the soul when I suddenly looked down and realized I hadn't read a page in several minutes and had not been aware that the cd had moved right on to the next one in the shuffle. I stretched out on the chair behind me and put my feet back up on the chair in front of me. The cicadas were clicking madly and a few goofy "gallinas de la montana" were warbling their insane warble. The sun had slid down behind the coconut trees and the air was rich with the smell of a deeply burnished bird.
So yes, one must arise to rescue the bird, but there is security in knowing that it must, as the French say, "repose" for several minutes before it falls prey to the carving knife. A salad might be made at this point, a simple salad; tomatoes sliced, even an avocado broken into and mixed with a dash of "jugo de mandarina", but this is lazy work, work done at a restful and serene pace. Don't make a dressing, just splash some olive oil and citrus juice on the greens; sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. The salad will far better accompany the simple flavors of the chicken dressed this way.
It's all ready. Cut the bird anyway you like. I like to start with a leg, but then, I am a "leg man". Grab a few crispy potato pieces, a hunk of two of browned carrot and some of the fallen apart but caramelized wedges of onion. The garlic cloves, roasted to perfection; grab a few of those, too.
Load the plate up and push some of that simply dressed salad on there. Tilt up the roasting pan and pour some of those chicken-y fatty juices over the whole damn thing. Perfect, just perfect.
Eat. And enjoy.