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Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 10:00PM
Cameron Blazer in cooking, failure, food, life, success

Sometimes I (ahem) forget to post when my projects don't quite work out. And so it could seem to the uninformed observed that I have some kind of Martha perfection complex. But, really? I really, really don't. Honest. Here's what I do have: a belief when things go wrong that I'm smart enough to fix them or flexible enough to reset my expectations, redefine the goal when fixing is out of reach.*

Let's work backwards, shall we?

Photos © 2010 David Mandel // Ampersand Industries

Yummy, non? Chicken, greens, potatoes...what's not to love?

Things started auspiciously enough: rinsed and patted the chicken (a 4-plus pound roaster) dry, stuffed it with a lemon and some parsley, stuffed a bit of butter under the skin, coated it in salt and pepper, trussed it, and set it atop a bed of halved fingerling potatoes (because potatoes + chicken fat? Oy).

Photos © 2010 David Mandel // Ampersand Industries

An hour later I pulled the chicken out, and it looked gorgeous. I was very pleased with myself. For one, my trussing had stayed in place, which never happens. In all my years cooking at home and in restaurants, I've never gotten the trussing thing down. There is a Right WayTM that I have never mastered, but I don't worry about it too much until I accidentally get it right. For two, the skin was a perfect golden brown, and the cut sides of the potatoes had turned a deep, translucent brown. So with an unwise air of self-satisfaction (this is what is known as foreshadowing, folks—insert ominous music here),  I set them aside to rest while I prepped the greens (a huge bunch gorgeous broccoli rabe) for a quick sauté. 

Photos © 2010 David Mandel // Ampersand Industries

I am from the South, so I think it is a part of my DNA that I like a little fat (preferably of the pork variety) with my greens. Now, I'm pretty sure that Mario Batali would gasp, but since I didn't have any bacon in the house, I tore a few slices of prosciutto into bits and sauteed them with some pine nuts till I could smell the nuts. I dumped in a pile of very wet greens (making this more of a steamté than a sauté, but that's kind of what I was going for) and cooked on medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes, turning the greens over occasionally. Once I turned the heat off I added a splash of sherry vinegar.

As an aside, I should say that I don't usually make broccoli rabe as a family meal because it's got a bitter flavor that most kids, mine included, aren't gonna like. But every now and then, I'm content to let him gorge himself on chicken and potatoes while I enjoy a bit of dark, leafy, cruciferous goodness. I'm a giver like that.

So...success, right? Time to carve this beautiful bird. I looked for the biggest cutting board I could find, but as my cutting boards all apparently hail from Lilliput, the bird gaped over the edges of the last clean one I had. Awkward surfaces notwithstanding, I soldiered forth. My first inkling that there might be trouble was actually more of a gush than an inkling. As I separated the first thigh, I unleashed what I will characterize here only as not clear juices. Yuck. Like, shudder worthy.

I said some words I am not proud of. Quietly.

How I could have miscalculated the cooking time? How had I not checked the doneness when I pulled it out of the oven in the first place? I said some more choice words.

And then I moved on. Because what else was there to do? I removed the other thigh and the wings and carved the breast away; I set the carved pieces back on top of the potatoes and stuck them back in the oven under the broiler for about 6 more minutes. In the meantime I dumped the carcass in a pot, poured some water in, and set it on for stock.

And you know what? Once I got past the grossness of cutting into a semi-raw (which is much grosser than completely raw) chicken, it was better this way. Under the broiler, the skin got crispier, the potatoes got re-heated, and the pan juices got more caramelized. Dinner was saved. I mean, served.

* This does not mean that when things go wrong I can be placated with "Everything's going to be ok." This theory of hunky-doriness flies in the face of every fiber of my control freaky being. Everything can be ok because people can try harder, do better, get creative. The truth? I see life as a constant struggle against entropy in which every good meal, every beautiful design, every peal of laughter is a tiny victory, a flag planted on behalf of order and happiness. What? 

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