Butterflied Dijon Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

My friend Mike is back with another great recipe. Here he spatchcocks the chicken so it roasts faster and more evenly, keeping the white meat just as juicy as the dark. See Mike’s other posts here.

This is a relatively simple and wonderfully delicious way to roast chicken. The juices from the chicken baste the vegetables while they roast together, while the mustard and herbs de Provence pair very well. And it’s much quicker than many other roast chicken recipes! The recipe was inspired by Jacques Pepin’s “Fast Food My Way” TV series.

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Saffron Chicken Tajine and Eggplant-Tomato-Herb Salad

The theme of the night was ambiance.

My friend and fellow foodblogger Ally came over to help make a warm and hearty Moroccan meal for my family. As the vegetables roasted and the chicken simmered, we dimmed the dining room lights and adorned the table with candles and tiny tajine pots. We made a pot of hot mint tea.

During the meal, my family tried to remember Moroccan restaurants we had been to around the world.

What was the one with rose petals on the floor?

Oh yeah, it was downstairs and had candles on the wall?

Remember that one with all the pillows?

Bereber?

No.

That one has pillows too. The one on Robertson?

No.

That one had pillows.

404?

I think it was in New York.

Ok, so they all have pillows.

Homemade Moroccan bread — the recipe I used seems to have disappeared from the Internet

Then it clicked. Earlier in the week I read the Morocco chapter of New American Chef:

“The real beauty of Moroccan cuisine, however, is the hospitality that is as engulfing as the flavors and aromas.”

Several times the book mentioned the importance of comfort while eating. I know we must have had delicious and filling meals of couscous, merguez, tagines and other Moroccan delights, but what we all remembered most about those restaurants was the ambiance. The low tables, the heavy curtains, the rustic walls, the ceremonious pouring of tea, the rose petals, the pillows…

The meal Ally and I prepared was definitely tasty, and equally important, served with just the right ambiance.

North African meals previously: Tunisian Lamb Stew, Moroccan Roast Chicken and Algerian Carrot Salad
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Goan-Style Roast Chicken and Gingered Split Peas

goan-chicken

Cilantro, lime, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, cinnamon and cloves…

If that ingredient list doesn't get you excited, then I don't know what you're doing here. Now, imagine all those cooking together on a chicken. Smelling that in the oven for an hour and 20 minutes was the best and worst thing ever — tortuously incredible. It was worth the wait though. This Goan-style chicken came from a recipe from chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla in New York. I had to make it when I read that ingredient list.

Normally I would resent spending $1.50 on 40 grams of cilantro, but a 5-pound chicken only cost US$3, so I can't possibly complain. I recently calculated that I have spent $200 on two months' worth of groceries in Buenos Aires. That includes several items that will last me the rest of my time here. When I don't cook at home, I mostly get street food, which will fill me up for $3 or $4. I love it here.

goan-chicken2

But back to the chicken, it was incredibly tasty. I ate it with gingered split peas and chapati, an Indian flatbread. A very satisfying dinner with plenty of leftovers.

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Getting Closer…

smart-chicken

I sometimes do my grocery shopping at 1am. I don’t know why, maybe I like having the whole store to myself (with the exception of the guy on the zamboni floor polisher thing). Everything is pristine, ordered, in their rows. Granted, I’ve noticed a higher percentage of older/bruised fruit and veggies, but the solidarity of the moment and the lack of pressure to think about what I want far outweigh the occasional so-so tomato.

Last night was awesome, as far as grocery shopping experiences go. I picked up some Harvarti, which I first had at Britt’s over winter break on a sandwich. New favorite cheese, hands down. That’s standard fare though, not uncommon.

What else I noticed was over in the meat aisle, a new option next to Tyson. Now, I don’t hate Tyson, I think the chicken (and cornish game hens) are quite delicious, but

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I can only assume that such a large company doesn’t really give a hoot about the animals, only getting it into those well designed packages. I also realize that most chicken processing facilities accept up to a certain amount of death due to the close quarters and spread of disease. According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book on meat, broiler chicken houses can have up to 30% death rate and be considered healthy. Thats 30% of 10,000 to 40,000 birds. (That book has been my bible lately, expect to see a ton of references to it).

I’ve always felt bad funding what I can only assume is the standard intensive farming practice, but never really saw an easy option presented alongside it. That changed last night. Maybe it’s new (or maybe I’m just blind), but a brand known as MBA SmartChicken was available. They offer two varieties, vegetable and grain fed free range, and a full blown organic, which is everything the first level is, but even more natural.

Supposedly.

I know the words organic and free range get thrown around lot, so I’m still skeptical, but the website claims the chickens and the feed are both from right here in Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. That means less cost to get the feed to the birds and less cost to transport the chicken itself.

I thought, “what the hell”, and got a whole chicken, 7 bucks. $2.85 more than the Kroger brand sold at Gerbes. Not too much more, for hopefully a chicken that lived a much happier life, died in a much less stressful way, and in theory should taste much better because of it. Now again, I’ll have to do some more research into the topic. MBA may be blowing smoke up our collective “green”-loving asses, but I have a feeling short of buying chicken at the farmers market or raising my own, it’s the best alternative right now. We’ll let you know how it tastes soon enough.

Oh, I also found some free range eggs too, only 80 cents more than the generic store brand. We’ll see if they make a better omelet.