I’ve been in a bit of a haze the past few months, just writing and cooking and shooting pretty much nonstop. The cookbook writing process is an exciting but intense one—it kind of consumes your whole life while you’re in the middle of it, but it does it in the best possible way because you’re doing what you love, and in my case, because it is what I love, I want it to be absolutely perfect; which means lots of tweaking and obsessing and intense anxiety-riddled pondering. But I love the stress of it, it makes me feel alive and passionate and gives me the energy and drive to keep going. While I’ve been neck-deep in writing and photographing my next cookbook, I wanted to share another one of my favorite recipes from my first cookbook, Adventures in Chicken. It’s for a delicious and almost deceptively simple roast chicken; the most ‘tedious’ part involves brining the chicken overnight, which might seem like an annoying extra step if you’re not used to brining, but *please* trust me when I say that brining will make your chickens so much juicier and more flavorful. Just try it once and see how you like it (I promise you will be hooked!)
After the chicken is brined, the flavoring base involves browning butter until it’s nice and nutty and toasty, then scraping the contents of a vanilla bean into it, whisking it around with some sherry vinegar, allspice, and salt, and letting it infuse. Then you rub that goodness alllllllll over the chicken, stuff it with pears and the vanilla bean husks, lay it on a bed of sweet onions, surround it with more pears, and roast it until your house smells like magic. Something about the butter already being browned makes the skin of the chicken turn the best color—it just sears into this perfect deep golden brown and the little flecks of vanilla are visible on it, too. It’s pretty much the sexiest-looking chicken, ever. If you want a table stunner while you’re entertaining family over the holidays, definitely give this a go. Also, if you’re looking for a beautiful, affordable, and approachable gift to give friends and family over the holidays, I highly recommend wrapping up a copy of Adventures in Chicken and placing it under your tree 🙂
To brine the chicken, in a bowl, mix together the water, salt, vanilla extract, and thyme. Place the chicken in a large gallon-size resealable plastic bag and add thee brine until nearly full. Press as much air out of the bag as possible and seal. Refrigerate overnight.
For the vanilla bean brown butter, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking the butter, stirring several times to ensure it cooks evenly, until it turns golden brown and smells toasty. Remove from the heat and use a blunt butter knife to scrape the inside of the vanilla bean pods over the pot, allowing the small vanilla beans to fall into the brown butter. After scraping, add the vanilla pods, vinegar, salt, and allspice to the pot and whisk. Set aside and infuse for 15 minutes.
To roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenly distribute the onion in a small roasting pan. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse gently, and pat dry. Place the bird in the pan and rub with half of the brown butter mixture, inside and out, getting under the skin of the breast. Stuff with two of the pear quarters. Remove the whole vanilla bean pods from the pot and place inside the chicken as well. Truss the bird. Arrange the remaining pear quarters around the bird and drizzle the remaining brown butter mixture and stock over the pears and chicken.
Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 and roast, turning halfway through, for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes longer, until a thermometer inserted into a thigh of the bird reads at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the bird browns too quickly, tent it with tin foil. Allow the chicken to rest for 20 minutes before carving.