Monday, August 3, 2009

Use Your Friends For Their Herbs

There was once a point in my life when I thought I could maintain an herb garden. I had visions of pots around my front yard or my back balcony full of basil (sweet and Thai), mint, cilantro, thyme, and parsley. I had dreams of going to my pots, clipping basil leaves, and never having to spend $2.99 for a sorry little plastic container of half wilted basil ever again. I even made a trip to Home Depot and got soil, gardening tools, and large pots. But my herbs wilted and withered away. My dream garden would never be.

Lucky for me, my friend Jazmin has a green thumb and has created a beautiful herb garden with almost every herb that I would need for cooking (except for some Asian ones that I might need to get her to grow for me next spring.) She is also very willing to feed my addiction to cooking. She supplied me with some thyme last week and it just happened to be the same week that both Safeway and Giant had whole chicken on sale for $0.99 a pound. I had roast chicken on my mind. In particular, this Barefoot Contessa recipe. I've made this recipe before and it is good.

1 (4-pound) roasting chicken - $2.29 per pound at Whole Foods
Sea salt -Free from previous purchase
Freshly ground black pepper - Free from previous purchase
1 large bunch fresh thyme - Free - gift from Jazmin
4 lemons - $0.69 each
3 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise - $2.99 per pound
2 tablespoons butter, melted - Free from previous purchase
1/2 pound sliced bacon - Free from previous purchase
1 cup white wine - Free - Brought for the dinner by Monali
1/2 cup chicken stock - $1.39 per can

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the thyme, reserving enough thyme to garnish the chicken dish, 1 lemon, halved, and 2 halves of the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Cut 2 of the lemons in quarters and scatter the quarters and remaining garlic around the chicken. Lay the bacon slices over the chicken to cover.

Roast the chicken for 1 hour. Remove the bacon slices from the top of the chicken and set aside. Continue roasting the chicken for an additional 1/2 hour, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Slice the chicken on a platter. Garnish the chicken platter with the bacon slices, roasted garlic, reserved thyme and 1 lemon, sliced. Serve with the gravy.

For Christine and Monali who came over for dinner, I had to make some delicious sides. Especially for Christine, I made some roasted red potatoes. They were $2.99 per bag. I halved (or quartered) them, tossed them in some olive oil and butter, added half a head of garlic cloves, seasoned, and baked them at 425F for 45 minutes. We ate them with some sour cream. I also made some Shells and Cheese and added bits of the bacon that was roasted with the chicken into them. I topped off the shells with some shavings of an aged Percino Romano I found in the random cheese bin at Whole Foods. ( I love that cheese bin because you get to try out so many different cheeses for so little money. The hunk I got was only $1.08 and a perfectly good amount for our dinner.)

Monali brought a delicious salad which brought some beautiful color to our otherwise bland looking meal. It may look bland but that chicken was freaking amazing. The lemon and thyme gave the chicken a nice, fresh citrus flavor and the garlic perfectly infused the meat (not as intense as when I mince the garlic and stuff it under the skin though I like doing that too.)

Overall, the meal cost about $21.00 total. It fed three people for dinner and served for a great lunch the next day. This week, Giant has organic whole chicken for $1.59 per lb.

So the lesson of this post is to make lots of friends. Some of them might help you find high paying jobs. Some of them might help you carry some boxes when you move. Some of them can get you high quality herbs...for free.


  1. YUM! That chicken looks amazing. We have lots of fresh thyme in our garden right now and I just got some Himalayan sea salt and organic peppercorns from Sustainable Sourcing so I think I know what is for dinner tonight!

  2. I am totally trying out this recipe. Brings back memories when you cook for me in college.