A dark rainy October day like today is nice. And what I want on a rainy day is soup, especially chicken soup. No matter whether it's chicken noodle, chicken and rice, or Silver Palette's Chicken Chili they all start with chicken broth. And the broth starts with a roast chicken. Usually I buy the pack of two organic whole chickens from Costco and follow Pat Conroy's recipe from his The Pat Conroy Cookbook, with a few additions of my own. The other day I only had one chicken and it did get a tad overdone, something Mr. Conroy would deplore. It still tasted pretty good to us and smelled divine roasting away. I realize everyone has a recipe for roast chicken but here's how I do it.
My Roast Chicken, Inspired by Pat Conroy
1. Set whole chicken out of refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
2. Turn oven to 375 degrees.
3. Melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter and 1/4 cup olive oil together in small pan over moderate
heat until foamy, about 3 minutes.
4. Fill cavity of chicken with 1 peeled shallot, 2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed;
sprigs of fresh thyme, tarragon or rosemary; 1 teaspoon black peppercorns.
5. Rub chicken with 1/2 lemon and put in cavity.
6. Put other lemon half and an extra one in pan with extra garlic cloves, peeled.
7. Baste chicken with the butter-olive mixture.
8. Dust with paprika, salt and fresh ground black pepper.
9. Add 2 strips of bacon across top.
10. Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or more till done, legs wiggle, and temperature
in thigh is 170 degrees.
You can deglaze the pan with 2 cups chicken broth, salt and pepper, reduce by half and serve over mashed potatoes. But what I do now is save all the drippings, all the bones, skin, fat, carcass and either freeze it or make broth from it the next day. You can't buy chicken broth as rich and tasty as the broth made from this. I never stir stock. Why? I don't know, but Pat Conroy says not to so I don't. And I freeze it in several containers to save for soup for a rainy day.
Put all of the drippings, skin, fat and bones from the roast chicken into a stock pot and add a lot of water. Distilled water makes the clearest broth if you happen to have it. Add a couple of onions, peeled and halved, 3 or 4 carrots peeled and halved, 3 or 4 celery stalks cut in half, hopefully with lots of leaves. Any fresh herbs like parsley or thyme, tossing in any herb stems you've saved recently too. Add 4 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of herbs de Provence, a dozen whole cloves, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, one garlic head cut in half and unpeeled. Two teaspoons sea salt.
I let this simmer for hours, cool, strain, refrigerate or freeze for all kinds of soups but especially chicken soup. This time I added barley to the chicken soup instead of rice or noodles. More fiber there.
Know what's not bad at all with soup on a rainy day? Good, creamy pimento cheese!
Pimento cheese is something else that everyone has a favorite recipe for, but I buy good mild cheddar and sharp cheddar. I used to stir in a tub of soft cream cheese but am now leaving it out and cutting way back on mayonnaise. I have been known to add extras such as jalapeños, hot sauce, olive juice but one thing I always do that I've never heard of anyone else doing is to puree the pimento before adding. Son Zack would not eat it with pimentos when he was growing up, and I hated it when a piece of pimento seemed to get caught in the roof of the mouth so I started pureeing it. I mean to a liquid. I love it this way and it does give it a pretty color too.
Diet or no diet, in the South sometimes you just gotta have pimento cheese. Stuffing it in celery stalks helps keep it a little more healthy. So does sending most of it to your sons for their lunches.
I love a rainy day and soup...and pimento cheese.