With all the snow we’ve been having, I am beginning to feel like I live in the Land of Narnia – always winter, but never Christmas. Why is it that snow after December 25th is no longer a holiday miracle or a winter wonderland, but an icy, slushy, dirty, dangerous mess?
After five snow squalls and two major ice storms, the city of New Haven is heavy-burdened with frigid precipitation. The roads are impassable, the sidewalks have disappeared under inches of snow pack, and the streets are dotted with emergency “No Parking!” signs. In my humble little corner of town, I have experienced some super-embarrassing wipeouts on slippery paths, we’ve had the car towed for “plowing” that never happened, and I haven’t worn anything cute in weeks (since nothing quite goes with my enormous snow boots). Even snow days have lost their excitement and sparkle, since each day off school is one less day of vacation when the weather is actually nice! I’m tired of being cold, of waking up sore from shoveling, of being alarmed by the fear-mongers at weather.com. Most of all, I am tired of not being able to go to the farmer’s market.
And, of course, there is more snow in the forecast.
I realized yesterday that I am doubly buried: both by snow and the chilly grey negativity that has settled over me. But the pessimism must stop. I have simply decided to be sunny and warm, even if the sky isn’t.
Last night, determined to put the wonderland back in winter, I went out and enjoyed the way the crisp layer of ice atop the snow crunches satisfyingly when you walk on it and I admired how the streetlights illuminate the glassy, crystalline ice-shrouded tree branches. And I tried NOT to think about them falling, taking down power lines, or crushing cars. That seemed to work.
This morning I got up, put on my favorite Jack Johnson song (with light, easy lyrics about making banana pancakes and pretending it’s the weekend), pulled a chicken out of the freezer, made bread dough, and planned an warm, cozy roast dinner.
And finally, I decided to revive some of that joyful, wintry holiday cheer by making traditional Italian Christmas cookies. Though I must admit that those need a little more work (stay tuned), I didn’t let my baking blunder get me too down. While everyone else is out there grumbling, shoveling, slipping, freezing, and towing, my kitchen is toasty warm and smells like roast chicken, fresh bread, and sweet, spiced fig cookies.
I don’t care if the groundhog saw his shadow or not, spring can take its time.
Roast chicken with artichoke-lemon pan sauce
1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds)
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 box (9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup each: dry vermouth and fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Sprinkle chicken all over, including cavity with kosher salt; set on a wire rack set over a plate. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Tie chicken legs together and tuck wings under chicken. Brush breast side of chicken all over with some of the oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and a few grinds of pepper. Place chicken, breast side down on a V-rack set over a small roasting pan; repeat brushing with remaining oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a few more grinds of pepper.
Roast, breast side down until deep golden brown on backside, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven (close oven door); holding a wad of paper towels in both hands, turn chicken, breast side up. Sprinkle breast with remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Continue to roast until chicken is mahogany brown and leg/thigh registers at least 175 degrees, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. When ready to serve, carve each whole leg from the chicken, cutting each into leg and thigh pieces. Remove wings. Carve the breast meat from the carcass and slice crosswise.
Meanwhile, remove V-rack and set empty pan over two burners at medium-high heat. If any juices remain in the pan, simmer until they evaporate, then add artichokes; sauté to evaporate moisture, about a minute. Add garlic and oregano; sauté until fragrant, a minute or so longer. Add broth, vermouth, and lemon juice; simmer until reduced to about 1 cup of liquid, just a few minutes, depending on pan size and temperature. Stir in parsley, pour into a gravy boat and serve alongside the carved chicken.
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