20 April 2009


In my mind there are two kinds of cooks, The Ronald McDonald and The Django Reinhardt.

The Ronald McDonald cooks the same thing over and over without any variation. While traveling in Africa, I had a steady diet of cabbage and potatoes. My guide and I were talking about food and I asked him where he wanted to eat when he got back to England. Without hesitation, he said McDonald’s. I thought that was a funny response for someone who traveled the world. He explained that in his travels, his food supply was often precarious; he never knew what he would have to eat from one day to the next. He craved McDonald’s he said, because no matter where he was in world, when he walked into a McDonald’s the food would be exactly the same.

The Django Reihardt cooks like Django plays, one big jazz riff after another. The same songs gets a new interpretation each time he picks up the guitar.

Nigel Slater is Django. He is my kind of cook. Perhaps that’s because I already cook. In his award winning book, Appetite, he states that it is a book about breaking rules. For me, that is what cooking is, breaking rules. Slater takes a basic dish then he shows you how to make changes to that recipe to make it you own. I believe Slater’s kitchen is a fun and adventurous space.

Classic, unmucked-about-with roast chicken…and its pan juices

Chicken –an organically reared bird
A lemon
Garlic –a whole head, cut in half

Set the oven at 400 F. Sit the chicken in a roasting pan or large baking dish. Rub it all over with butter, even putting a walnut-sized piece inside the bird. Season with salt and black pepper. Cut the lemon in two, put one half inside, and squeeze the other half over the chicken, then trow the shell in the roasting pan with the head of garlic. Roast for 20 minutes per pound plus an extra half hour. You can baste it from time to time, though AI am not truly convinced of the need for it. When the chicken is ready, by which I mean it is golden-skinned and glossy, and its juices run clear when the flesh is deeply pierced with a skewer, remove it form the oven and let it rest for ten minutes.

After this, Slater suggests the following:

And the potatoes…add some peeled and boiled potatoes to the chicken during the last hour.

Roast chicken with garlic and herbs… mash tarragon, thyme and garlic into the butter and smear that on the chicken. After roasting add some wine to the juices for a gravy.

Some other birds to roast…if you can roast a chicken, then you can roast other birds. For pheasant and guinea fowl, wrap the breast in bacon.

Of course, Slater is much more detailed in his description but you get the idea. For this roast chicken, I threw everything in the pot!

Sometimes, the basics are the best.

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