What makes Hemingway so universally accessible is his simplicity–in language, in aesthetics, in taste. In the scene from which this meal derives, Jake and his expatriate cohort are sitting in a restaurant (“crowded with Americans”) on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris across the Seine in the backdrop of the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. Even here, Jake makes a point to delimit his authentic travels and those of “compatriot” tourists. The meal is simple:
“We had a good meal, a roast chicken, new green beans, mashed potatoes, a salad, and some apple-pie and cheese.”
Afterward, they walk along the Quai d’Orléans and witness “the broken walls of old houses that were being torn down.” This scene subtly echoes many of the themes the novel projects. The meal itself exudes comfort, and if done right, nothing pleases as much a well-crafted roast chicken. For this post I am only going to focus on roasting the bird and will forgo the sides and dessert. It’s chicken. It’s like bluejeans. It works in every season and location and goes with everything. There are five basic but absolutely critical steps for making an exquisite roast chicken: brine it, truss it, dry it, roast it, rest it. Disclaimer: the entire process takes a bit of time and a lot of patience and forethought.
Here’s what you will need
- 1 Whole Free Range Organic Chicken Breast, roughly 4.5 Pounds (2 kg)
- 1 Bouquet Garni (4 sprigs each thyme, rosemary, parsley and 1 bay leaf, tied with kitchen twine or any 100% cotton thread)
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Lemon, Quartered
- 3 Carrots, Chopped Large
- 3 Stalks Celery, Chopped Large
- Black Pepper, to season
- For the Brine:
- 1 Gallon Water
- 1 Cup Sea Salt
- 1 Cup Local Organic Honey
Here’s what you will do
- BRINE IT Add the water, sea salt, and honey in a large pot and boil. Allow the water to come to room temperature. Place the chicken into the brine (which should cover the bird), cover, and place in the refrigerator. Allow the chicken to brine for 20-24 hours.
- TRUSS IT Go to bed, wake up, and read The Sun Also Rises…or get ready for work, or whatever. By now the chicken should be ready. Remove the chicken from the brine and place on a roasting rack. Discard the brine. Truss the bird. If you don’t know how, check out this short video.
- DRY IT Place the chicken in your refrigerator on the drying rack and allow to sit for 8-12 hours. This process is essential for maximizing the crispiness of the skin and the tenderness of the meat.
- ROAST IT Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Stuff the bouquet garni, garlic, lemon, carrots, and celery in the bird’s cavity. Season the chicken liberally with black pepper. Roast, breast up, for 15 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crispy. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C). Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- REST IT Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest 20-30 minutes before carving and serving. Resting the chicken is essential because it ensures even cooking and dispersion of the bird’s juices.
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