So… I have a confession to make. I pretty much never time anything I’m doing in the kitchen.
(Two exceptions: hard-boiled eggs – seven minutes, to the second; chocolate chip cookies – eight. Other than that, I eyeball pretty much everything.)
I know that this tendency of mine is a pain when other people ask for recipes, mainly because I remember how pissed I got when I was first learning to cook and my mother couldn’t tell me how much of anything to put into a given dish or how long to cook it for.
But I understand, now, where she’s coming from, and unless I’m testing a recipe, I never time anything.
I also tend not to gild the lily very much. I know it’s not exciting, but very few of the things I cook have more than five or six ingredients. I don’t use herbs all that liberally, and while I love using spices in certain dishes – Mexican black beans, for example, or the spiced home fries I have for breakfast pretty much every morning – for the most part, nearly everything I cook is, for lack of a better word, rather plain.
It’s a new tendency, I guess, and I know it stems from the fact that the ingredients here are just so darn good, especially when you’re cooking in season: a local, seasonal squash demands nothing more than to be roasted in bacon fat; fresh Paris mushrooms get the same treatment; just-caught fish gets salt, pepper, and a hot pan.
Maybe I’m subconsciously being inspired by my father-in-law: no recipe, no rules. When you’re cooking rabbit or a chicken your friend killed for you and you have real French butter in the fridge, there’s no reason to overcomplicate things.
That’s why I have no recipe for you, today. To add anything to this farm-raised chicken – lemon in the cavity, herbs under the skin – seemed nearly blasphemous. All I did was stick some baby onions and shallots beneath it, to keep the underside from getting soggy as it roasted, sprinkle it liberally with salt, and, yes, slather it with a huge spoonful of duck fat to keep the breast from drying out.
I stuck it in a 400 degree oven, but I have no idea how long I cooked it for. When it was burnished and browned on top, I looked at the juices in the cavity, and when they were clear instead of pink, I wiggled the leg. When it moved like a knee – easily and smoothly – I took it out and served it with a few pieces of fermented garlic and some Dijon mustard.
No recipe; no rules. Just delicious chicken.