Roast chicken, asparagus, and hollandaise

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First, roast a chicken. You can do this several days in advance. Get a nice 5 pound or so bird, pasture-raised if possible. Rinse it inside and out and dry it thoroughly (paper towels or a hair dryer, or leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge. Set in a shallow roasting pan breast-side up (put it on a rack if you want, I don’t generally use one), and sprinkle generously with thyme and lightly with cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Let it sit while the oven heats up to 450 deg F.

Once the oven is hot, put the bird in and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the time’s up, turn the oven temperature down to 325 deg F and let the bird roast for 20-25 minutes/pound (about 1.75 hours for a 5 pound bird). Don’t baste it, don’t mess with it. You’ll get a nicely browned crispy skinned fowl if you just let it alone, as long as it was dried off well when you started. When time’s up, take the bird out and let it sit for 15 minutes before cutting into it. Like with any roast, this rest lets the juices repopulate the meat, keeping things juicy.

Now, use 1/2 of that tasty chicken for your current night’s dinner and wrap the rest up with the pan juices and store in the fridge. Just leave the meat on the carcass – that will also help it retain moisture.

Get a nice bunch of local asparagus from your farmers market – 1 pound for 2 people is about right (though some might say generous – but you only get that first taste once a year!) Rinse it off and snap off the ends at their natural break point. If it doesn’t snap, it’s not fresh. Thick or thin stalks, either one, but try to get a bundle with only one or the other, so things cook evenly. Put the stalks in the top pan of a steamer, but set them to the side until you have made the hollandaise.

Some people seem to think making hollandaise is a scary proposition, but while it’s quite a bit of prep and whisking, I’ve found it to be pretty foolproof (and delicious!). Assemble your ingredients:

3 egg yolks – leave these out in a small bowl while you are doing all the prep, so they come closer to room temp.

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick in the US) – put this in a pyrex measuring cup

1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice – put this in a 1/4 or 1/3 cup metal measuring cup

1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few shakes of cayenne – put these together in a tiny prep bowl or on a small plate

You will need the following utensils:

small saucepan

the bottom 1/2 of your steamer pan

a dishtowel

a good-sized stainless steel bowl

a wire whisk

a measuring tablespoon

Put a few inches of water in the small saucepan, then put the pyrex measuring cup containing the butter in the water. Put the pan on medium high heat so the butter melts.

Put a few inches of water in the bottom of your steamer pan. Use the towel to make a collar around the top of the pan and situate the stainless steel bowl in it. You want the towel to fill the gap between the top edge of the pan and the side of the bowl, so the only heat to the bowl comes from the rising steam, not metal to metal conduction. Don’t turn the heat on under this pan yet.

Once the butter has melted completely in the measuring cup, lift the cup out of the water and set it to the side. Put it on a towel or something to keep some of the heat in and dry off the bottom. Raise the heat under the little pan of water. You want it to boil.

Now, put the three slightly warmed up egg yolks in the bowl of your double-boiler like contraption. Beat them lightly with the whisk, then turn the heat under the pan to medium high. Continue to beat the yolks until they start to thicken up and get lemon-yellow. Add 1 tablespoon of the boiling water from the little pan to the egg yolks and beat with the whisk until they thicken up again. Add another tablespoon of boiling water, beat again until thick. Do this until you have added 4 total tablespoons of boiling water to the yolks, beating constantly with the whisk. The mixture will get a little foamy. Keep the whisk moving around so the yolks don’t cook to the bottom of the bowl.

You want the lemon juice heated up just a little bit, so either get someone to help you hold it over the little pan of boiling water, or carefully do it yourself. Touch the metal of the cup to the metal edge of the pan to get some conduction going and it will heat up pretty quickly. Once the chill is off the lemon juice, beat it into the egg yolk/water mixture. When it’s well incorporated, lift the bowl carefully off the steamer pan bottom, set it aside, and remove the towel. Put the top of the steamer pan with the asparagus spears on the bottom half with the boiling water and put the lid on for it to cook.

Settle the bowl with the egg yolk mixture onto a cork trivet or into a towel so it doesn’t shift around when you whisk. Keep whisking the egg yolk mixture while trickling in small dribbles of the melted butter from the pyrex measuring cup. The sauce will start to thicken and get glossy as the egg absorbs the butter. You can gradually add the butter in a more steady thin stream, until you’ve whisked in about 1/2 of the amount.

Dump in all the salt and cayenne now, and whisk it in, then start pouring in the rest of the melted butter while whisking madly away, until all the butter’s beaten into the sauce. It will be thick and glossy and lemon yellow, with little red flecks of cayenne.

While the asparagus finishes, slice some of the cold roast chicken onto two plates. Once the spears are brilliant green but still a bit crisp, divide them onto the plates right next to the chicken and spoon dollops of the warm hollandaise over both. Use about 1/4 of the sauce for each plate and you’ll have some leftovers for your breakfast eggs.

And don’t throw that carcass away – stuff it in a freezer bag and we’ll make stock with it the next weekend.

jaq

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3 Responses to “Roast chicken, asparagus, and hollandaise”

  1. boxofbirds Says:

    Asparagus Alert!

    Speaking of cold roast chicken and asparagus. Cafe Presse has a great asparagus salad on their menu right now. You should check it out… They also have a tasty 1/2 cold roasted chicken. 🙂

  2. Jaq Says:

    Grand Central Bakery has a spring chicken salad (sandwich or on greens) that’s cubes of chicken, fresh aspargus, and herbed mayonnaise! I had the sandwich today – messy, but very tasty.

  3. Jaq Says:

    Ooo, we finally went to Cafe Presse today for a late and very leisurely lunch: 1 shared charcuterie plate, 1 delicious asparagus salad (the pine nuts added the perfect note!), 1 shared assorted cheese plate, 2 glasses Fronton rosé (a varietal I’d never tried before, Négrette). Really delicious!

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