Last night I was called upon reasonably last minute to come up with exam food for the brain for a study buddy group going deep into World Issues for the last time. How do you feed a group of people that may have tastes that range from cautious to ‘out there’? I went for the safety of ‘comfort’ food and the classics.

A quick trip to the store found me whole chickens on sale. So I started with that and secured what I needed for a basic multi-veg green salad and then potatoes for mashing.

In the salad I included Lebanese cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and red pepper, along with mixed greens. My dressing is a combo of extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper.

For my mashed potatoes, I tend to go for the red potatoes because I find them so creamy. I use a masher or ricer as not to over work the potatoes. A little bit of butter and milk makes them light and fluffy. Light in the fluffy sense, not calories.

With all of that, how can you not do gravy. I start with a roux of chicken fat from the roast and flour. I make sure I cook that mix for a good minute to take away the raw flour flavour. If I am lucky I will have chicken stock in the freezer I can use; otherwise, I go with the flavourful potato water from boiling the potatoes.

By now you probably know that we finished this meal with strawberry rhubarb pie. I am hoping for big results come exam day on Tuesday.

CLASSIC ROAST CHICKEN
Author: Daphna Rabinovitch
Source: Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step
Servings: 6

1 roasting chicken, about 5 lbs.
1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil, or butter
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Remove giblets and neck, if present, from chicken. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry.

Place onion and garlic in chicken cavity. Squeeze juice from lemon and set aside to use in gravy; add lemon skin to cavity.

Tuck wings under back of chicken; tie legs together with kitchen string. Brush all over with oil; sprinkle with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Try to use fresh herbs if you can! Place, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Roast, uncovered, in 325ºF oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Baste chicken with pan juices. Roast, basting occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours longer or until juices run clear when thigh is pierced and meat thermometer inserted in thigh registers 185ºF. Transfer chicken to platter and tent with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

It’s always preferable to cook a chicken on a rack in a shallow roasting pan so that the heat can circulate evenly around the bird. Roasting at 325ºF keeps both the white and dark meat moist and tender. The duel tests of juices running clear when the thigh is pierced and an internal temperature of 185ºF are both necessary to guarantee that the chicken is cooked through.

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