Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Hold onto your hats everyone, I am going to come right out and say I disagree with T.S. Eliot …. April is not the cruelest month; that honor goes to February. Think of it; the dark darkness of deep December (which at least had some festivities to keep you going) is past, you’ve gotten through January with nothing to recommend it, and then you finally arrive at February; the days are noticeably longer, the robins are at the holly trees, and a few brave crocus blades tentatively break through the soil beckoning you outside to prune. So, happily and hopefully, sheers in hand, you open the back door to head outside. And here is the wicked cruelty: a misanthropic wind, shocking in its intensity and meanness. Maybe you are stoic enough to head outside, I’m going to stay in and cook up a chicken in a pot.
Following a recipe in my dog-eared copy of The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I gather an assortment of interesting vegetables, chop them and put them in the bottom of a large oven-proof pot with some salt and pepper. Last week I scrounged around the vegetable bin and came up with a leek, a potato, some celery, a couple of carrots, the bum-end of a butternut squash, a handful of Brussels sprouts and a few kohlrabi begging to be quartered. Radishes or a few shallots, a turnip, a bit of celeriac or even some mushrooms would be fun too. Then I plop a nice, small, organic chicken on top of the nest of vegetables and give the bird some salt and pepper and a good rub-a-dub with a large pat of butter, toss in a tall glass of water or two and a short glass of white wine and cover the pot. I bake it for an hour at 375, whereupon I remove the cover, give the vegetables a stir and return it to the oven, uncovered, so that the chicken can brown as it cooks for another half hour. Finally, I remove it from the oven and let the bird sit a bit while I chop up some fresh herbs to scatter over all. Everyone gets a shallow bowl with some broth from the bottom of the pot, a healthy spoonful of vegetables and pieces of cut up chicken; a little farm right in your bowl. A meal to chase away the cruel winds of February and herald the gentler breezes of spring.