This is another of our budget meals. Whole chickens are gloriously inexpensive, running anywhere from $5-$8 dollars, and there are a zillion different ways to prepare them. I'd been hearing about Zuni Cafe's famous roast chicken for years, and given that it requires just 4 ingredients, it was the perfect time for me to try to recreate it at home. I also took the opportunity to use up the farro that had been sitting in my cabinets for...well, too long. I had fallen in love with farro risotto at Perilla Restaurant in New York (the establishment of Top Chef Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle), but had never quite gotten around to making it on my own. It didn't take too long to find this recipe from Food & Wine. With the addition of some simply roasted asparagus, this comforting homey meal made both Mark and I incredibly happy.
- 1 4-5 lb whole chicken
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- Ground black pepper
Warning: this chicken recipe is a little time-consuming, but it yields some pretty great crispy skin. Three days before I wanted to serve the chicken, I took it out, removed the fat lumps from the inside of the chicken (GROSS), rinsed it and patted it dry. I made sure to dry the inside, too. Once the chicken was dry, I slid my finger underneath the skin over each of the chicken breasts, and underneath the skin over the thickest part of each of the thighs. Then I slid a sprig of rosemary into each of the 4 pockets I made.
I seasoned the chicken really, really well with salt and pepper (including a sprinkle or two on the inside), then covered it and put it in the fridge to chill for awhile.
About a day before Chicken Dinner Day, I removed the cover and patted the chicken dry again (the salt will pull more moisture out of the chicken). The day of dinner, I preheated the oven to 475, and heated a pan big enough to hold the chicken over medium heat. I patted the chicken dry once more, then placed it, breast-side up, in the pan and put the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes.
I turned the chicken over, roasted for another 20 minutes, then in the last 10 minutes, I turned it back over to crisp the skin over the breasts. Then I took the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
While the chicken was roasting, I made the farro risotto.
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups farro (10 ounces)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp butter
- Salt and ground black pepper
First I heated the olive oil over medium heat and added the onions and cooked about 6-8 minutes, until they were softened. I added the farro and cooked an additional minute, making sure that all the grains were covered with oil.
I added the wine and cooked it about 2 more minutes, until the wine was absorbed. I then added the broth, about a 1/2 cup, and cooked until the liquid was absorbed, then continued the process until all the broth was gone and the farro was tender (with just a little bite still left), about 25 minutes. I stirred in the cream, cheese, and butter, cooked an additional 5 minutes, then seasoned the risotto with salt and pepper.
Oh, and I roasted some asparagus, too (coated the spears with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and threw it in with the chicken for the last 15 minutes of cooking). We served it with a little melted miso butter from the other night.
The chicken was very good, with a great salty, crispy skin, and surprisingly moist meat, although I don't know if I think it beats the Contessa's recipe, which has the added bonus of being easier. The best thing on the plate was definitely the farro risotto, though, which I prefer to the classic arborio rice version, because the farro has this wonderful nuttiness is somehow much more filling and satisfying. And obviously, asparagus is always fantastic. Given that we already had the farro at home, I think this meal came out to under $20 for both of us. Another budget meal success!