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Recipe Mon Dec 08 2008
True, that big meal of poultry, cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing etc. happened only a week and a half ago, but some of us may be ready for another go-round, especially if some of us had our Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house and were not able to partake in any of the leftovers. Feeling deprived, I decided to recreate the meal, sort of, this past Sunday evening. I didn't cook a 20-lb. turkey or make umpteen side dishes; instead I focused on the conjuring up the spirit of the meal by cooking a whole bird (chicken, instead of turkey), making cranberry sauce, and preparing simple, roasted sweet potatoes.
The cranberry sauce was my favorite kind: whole cranberries, cooked on the stove in a simple syrup until they burst open and their juices ooze out. (I follow the recipe for "whole cranberry sauce" on the back of the bag of cranberries, except I cut the sugar in half, from 1 cup to 1/2 cup, because I like it more tart than sweet.) The sweet potatoes were peeled, chopped into cubes and tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper before being roasted on a sheet pan for about a half an hour to 40 minutes. The chicken was a bit more complicated (see recipe below), but nothing about this meal even came close to the elaborate production that is Thanksgiving. It provided many of the basic, comforting flavors with none of the back-breaking work. What's not to like about that?
Roasted chicken with thyme, onions, garlic and lemon
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe)
1 five lb. roasting chicken
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1medium onion, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and anything else that's in the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water and dry with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body.
2. In the center of a roasting pan or large baking dish, arrange onion slices in one layer, so that they form a sort of bed for the turkey. Pierce entire surface of the lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to crush open. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices.
3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees.and the thigh 190 degrees.
4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve with the onions.