Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Amsterdam Market and Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken

Last Sunday, I schlepped over to the New Amsterdam Market at New York’s South Street Seaport. This is the third installation of the market, which runs a few days a year and and features some of the region’s top proponents of local and sustainable food. The goal is for the market to become a permanent fixture of the South Street Seaport, but for now, we Manhattan foodlovers must settle for having some of the region’s top purveyors and producers of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, bread, and more in the same place only a few times a year. It’s like a Greenmarket on steroids.

After stuffing my face with bread and cheese samples; an excellent ham, pickle, and butter sandwich from Marlowe and Sons; and a slice of delicious caramelized leak and ricotta tart from a baker I don’t remember, I began to think about dinner. I did not have much cash on me, so I passed by two of my favorite Greenmarket meat producers, 3 Corner FIeld Farm and Flying Pigs Farm, and set my sight on the $5 chickens at Bo Bo Chicken. I was unfamiliar with Bo Bo chicken, but the friendly lady at the stall informed me that they sell super fresh (i.e. less than a day from the slaughterhouse) poultry. She told me they sell mostly to Asian markets, but also deliver fresh poultry to some of New York’s finest restaurants. I bought a medium-sized chicken for $5 dollars, and they also gave me a free tote bag with an ice pack so I could safely get the chicken home to the Upper East Side in this 90 degree weather. A great deal for a what sounded like a great chicken. Here’s what it looked like when I put it on my cutting board to prepare dinner:

This chicken was so fresh that it had seen little in the way of a butcher’s table. I had only dealt with headless and feetless chicken before, but I was able to quickly get the chicken into it’s more familiar form with a few chops of my knife. I threw the head and feet into the freezer for a stock I will be making later down the road.

To prepare the chicken, I used a recipe for roasted chicken with lemon’s from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Roasting a chicken does not get much easier than this. Just take two lemons, roll them and squish them, poke a bunch of holes into each, and stuff them into the cavity of the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, truss it, and into the oven it goes. Here’s what it all looked like after cooking at 350 degrees for an hour, then 20 minutes at 400 degrees:

Unfortunately, I failed to dry the chicken well enough after I washed it, so the skin did not get as brown or as crispy as I would have liked. Thankfully, the meat was deliciously moist and flavorful with the lemon juice that it absorbed while in the oven. Marcella even convinced me to retract my statement that the best roast chickens are cooked with generous amounts of butter. This chicken had no butter, and was as delicious as any roast chicken I have made. It did, however, have a good amount of salt, so I stand by my belief that salt is a roast chicken’s best friend.

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