Saturday, October 24, 2009

Housewife Cooking Classes 101

If I had an alternate calling in my life, it would be to teach home cooking classes; the kind of classes Julia Child was teaching young American housewives in Paris when she was writing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I can just imagine housewives in flattering dresses and cute aprons, taking home economics style classes, learning how to graciously fulfill their wifely duties! That kind of homemaking preparation is so foreign to our culture today!

Maybe I should have taken some of those classes. There are areas of housekeeping that I struggle with; particularly the cleaning. I remember my sister telling me "you will always do the things that you want to do." I think that's why I always make it to the grocery store on Fridays, but I usually don't get to the vacuuming and mopping. When it comes to my house, I like decorating and putting things in their place. I don't like having to work to keep them looking pretty. My husband is a wonderful complement to me in that way; he likes things to be neat, so he often picks up the slack where I fail. It is not uncommon for him to fold the laundry, wash the dishes, or make up the bed! (Shameless brag moment: I have an amazing husband. I mean, wonderful. I am completely blessed and humbled.) Okay, so maybe I don't need classes to learn how to make the bed. Maybe I just need discipline.

Cooking is different, though. Being in the kitchen is about being adventurous and having fun, but also having the right tools and know-how. These days, many wives fear their kitchens because they just don't have the experience, or even the time to spend trying new recipes and honing their skills. I think I could teach those housewife classes on cooking. If only I lived when 1950s style home economics was a la mode.

If I were to teach these classes, my first lesson would be "How to Roast a Chicken, perfectly" (one of Julia's classic dishes, appropriately, updated a bit by Ina Garten). It is beautiful, impressive even. And it is so easy!

Even now, I am roasting a chicken at the end of a very busy week (I had a midterm and two papers due!), and making an extra to take to friends who recently had a baby. Trust me, if this messy housewife can roast a chicken at the end of a crazy week, you can too!

Perfect Roast Chicken

from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1 5-6 pound roasting chicken
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted (squeeze a little bit of lemon juice in the butter)
1 onion, cut into sixths
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally
2 sweet potatoes, cut into medium sized cubes or 6-7 new potatoes cut in half
Optional for Gravy:
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Sprinkle the vegetables on the bottom of a large roasting pan.

Remove the giblets and excess fat from the cavity of the chickent. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place the chicken on top of the vegeetables. Sprinkle inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon halves, thyme and garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using kitchen string, tie the legs together, and tuck the wing tips behind the body of the chicken. Brush the vegetables with any extra butter.

Roast at 425ยบ for 1 ½ hours.

Place the chicken and vegetables on a platter and cover with foil.

*Optional Gravy Recipe (I don't always make this--the chicken is delicious without it, but it is wonderful if you have the time): Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons in a small cup. Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Combine the 2 tablespoons of chicken fat with the flower and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste. Keep it warm over a very low flame while you carve the chicken.

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megan said...

ok i am officially jealous. i think I have a mental block about roasting a chicken. Can I take your housewife cooking classes? I don't like to touch raw chicken, and I seem to constantly overcook it. Yours, however, looks wonderful

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