Ben’s Chicken Dinner

It has been a big week here in our world. The Man Cub turned 21, so I made his favorite dinner: Baked Chicken, Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy and Peas. He’s always tagged this meal as his go-to when asked, “What do you want for dinner ?” I made this meal and timed it for his arrival, but he missed his plane ! Poor kid had to eat the leftovers. He woofed it down in the middle of the night with no complaints.

Baking a whole chicken is something everyone should know how to do. It’s easy, versatile, and tasty. Plus you have the carcass for making stock, or the nectar. The best tip I have for you is buy a good chicken !!!!! Kosher or Organic only. Commercial chickens are pumped full of water and hormones that bloat the chicken into weighing more, but when you cook them they shrivel into nothing and leave a pool of water in your pan. This ruins the drippings you hope to catch for gravy later.
Enough of my blabber, shall we get started ?

The Fixin’s

  • 1 whole chicken, 4 lbs, washed and patted dry
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened.
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • Fresh Herbs, sage, rosemary and thyme
  • Slices of Lemon
  • 1 Onion quartered
  • 6 to 8 stalks of celery, to make a rack for the chicken

Preheat oven to 400. Wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the inside really well. Fill the cavity with the fresh herbs, a few pieces of onion, and slices of lemon.

Spread the softened butter all over the outside of the bird, then salt and pepper all over. I’m not big on trussing, but I will tie up the legs a bit. That’s about it.

Take the celery and remaining onions and make a rack for the bird to rest on while baking.
You can do this with whatever you like: all onions, lemons, potatoes, or whatever you have on hand that will flavor your chicken and the drippings.

Bake for about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of your bird. I check it at an hour. Temp in thigh should be 180. When done, cover and let rest while you get ready to plate.

Strain the goodies in the baking dish and reserve for gravy.

Here are some shots of the master carver Jim’s handy work.

While your bird is baking and filling the house with lovely aromas, make the mashed potatoes.
Mashed Potatoes

  • 6-8 whole potatoes, peeled and halved.
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup cream or half and half
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper

Peel the potatoes and let rest in a bowl of water. Set a big pot of water to boil with plenty of salt. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until a knife cuts easily.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Let them dry out a bit.

Add the potatoes to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip them together with the butter and the cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

When your potatoes are done, fill the big pot with some water and simmer over a low flame. Put the mixing bowl back in the pot over the simmering water to keep warm. Put a few slices of butter on top and cover until ready to plate.

See the small pot in the back ground ?
That is the nectar staying warm and ready for gravy time !!
My grandmother taught me how to make gravy. It always seemed so scary. I would stress about it every time. I think stressing myself out made me pay attention to the details and the science of how gravy comes together.
Ready ?
Add the drippings to a big saute pan 10″-12″, heat until bubbly, add flour, and whisk together to make a a paste or a roux. Cook for a few minutes, always stirring to take away the floury flavor.

Slowly add the warmed chicken stock a cup at a time, whisking very rapidly all the time. Never stop stirring.

When it comes back to boil after adding the liquid, it will start to thicken. If it’s too thick, add more stock. If it’s too thin, boil for a bit longer. When it gets to the consistency you like, you can add the liver chopped very fine.
It’s a fine dance to learn and so rewarding.
Gravy:

  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons drippings
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2-3 cups homemade nectar / chicken stock – warmed.
  • Finely chopped Liver – optional. Don’t be a wuss. Try it.
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper
The peas are easy. Heat up fresh frozen peas and toss with butter and fresh chopped parsley. We served cornbread with this meal as well. I use the Trader Joe’s Cornbread box mix, but I add a bunch of stuff that makes it better. Add an extra egg, Kefir instead of milk, green chiles, and grated cheese. Mix and bake as stated on box.
Now if I may gush a bit on all the photos in this blog post. Jenny, last week’s guest blogger with the amazing Zinfandel Pot Roast took all these photos with her super amazing camera. It’s some kind of big, bad ass, digital Nikon thing. They make my iPhone photos seem silly. I am researching camera options so that I too can rock the killa photos like these. Check out Jenny’s skills here. Enjoy.
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3 thoughts on “Ben’s Chicken Dinner

  1. >You tell me how to do this with chicken breasts and I'm ALL.OVER.IT! It looks simply divine. Everything about it (except the bones and skin part) are on my list of all time favorites!And, I'll be requesting you make it the next time I grace you with my presence!! ;)xoxo

  2. >I have been lucky enough to get an invitation for Sarah's amazing chicken dinner….. winner, winner!!And I am dying to spend some time in that beautiful new backyard. While eating baked chicken. Swoon.

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