Dinner with Nanny: Chef Michael Schwartz’s Whole Roasted Chicken

My first whole roasted chicken.

It’s still hard for me to believe how many things I have not cooked before.  I’m finding this out as I make my way through my boss’s new cookbook, MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat.  Deviled eggs, homemade pickles…  Maybe it’s because I tend to wing it in the kitchen with ingredients and methods that are improvisation-friendly.  When specialized techniques are involved, and I don’t have them in my repertoire, it takes a good recipe to get me through.

I found a great one last night in Michael’s Whole Roasted Chicken with plumped raisins, toasted pine nuts, and arugula.  I made it for a roasted chicken connoisseur, my grandmother Lucille aka Nanny.  After a quick stop at her neighborhood Publix on the Beach for groceries, I was making myself at home in her circa 1950s kitchen.  The procedure is the epitome of Michael’s cooking, starting with very few high quality ingredients that when simply prepared produce nothing less than a magical result. It could not have been easier to make, even without the conveniences and equipment of cook’s kitchen.  Luckily she had just the right pan (the only possible one that could have worked!) and hot as hell old oven, the kind that overhang the stove top, in the spot where my Salamander is at home.  Aluminum pans did the trick for the plumping of raisins with rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, and water, and the toasting of pine nuts (and some bread, borrowing from another recent heavenly chicken experience at Zuni Cafe with Michael.)

This was one serious bird and one bangin’ accurate recipe.  I know I nailed it because the crisp-skinned result, perfectly cooked and running with clear chickeny juices, incited such comments as “Chicken doesn’t taste like this.” and “This bird is just delicious. Incredible!” The raisins (which didn’t taste like raisins either – haha) and toasted pine nuts scored equally as high with my discerning grandma, a woman with impeccable taste in matters more than culinary.

So thank you Michael; I now have a new one for my can-do arsenal!  Nanny and her nurse now have lunch and dinner for the next few days, plus extra raisins and raisin-rosemary infused oil for drizzling on toast or tossing in chicken salad.  I am going to try plumping apricots the same way next time, for my next whole roasted chicken, which will no doubt happen soon.

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