Last weekend I decided that I would take the whole two days to play in the kitchen. With one exception (I’m looking at you, pâte au choux), it went swimmingly. I baked bread. I baked angel food cupcakes – some of them stuffed with cherries, even!* I made bangers and mash that Will, who happens to know from English food, approved of.

But the best part was the chicken.

I had never roasted a chicken before, and I wanted to learn how, so I picked one up when I did the grocery shopping, and went home to consult some cookbooks. Turns out everyone has their own way of roasting a chicken. Jonathan Waxman roasts his chicken at a high temperature for a short time, and I, being a slightly impatient cook,  went with his method. Turns out Mr. Waxman’s kitchen and my kitchen are not on the same page. Some fiddling ensued.

Problem No. 1: I don’t have a broiler rack.
Solution: I cut up root veggies and onions, put them in the bottom of the pan, and balanced the chicken on top.

Problem No. 2: Mr. Waxman says to baste the birdie with pan drippings every five minutes. My chicken did not drip enough to grab with the baster, even at the 20-minute mark.
Solution: I poured some (roughly half a 32-ox box**) chicken broth over the bird.

Problem No. 3: Even at 475°, the 10 minutes per pound wasn’t quite enough time, but the skin was starting to get really dark.
Solution: Put the bird back in the oven and haunt it, with aluminum foil ready in the event that it looks like it will burn. Let the record reflect that the bird did not burn.

After everything was said and done (including gravy made from the drippings – yes, there were eventually drippings), dinner was delicious. There wasn’t much left at the end, but there were bones enough for boiling. So on Saturday, I popped the carcass, three carrots, three parsnips, an onion, and some celery into a pot with a few peppercorns and a bay leaf, and boiled it for three hours. The stock was light and sweet, and after a night in the fridge and trip through some cheesecloth, not even greasy.

Sunday, I turned it into gumbo.

Yes, I said gumbo. Here’s what I did:

Chicken Gumbo – serves 3-4

1/4c olive oil
1/4c all purpose flour
1c chopped onion
1/2c chopped red bell pepper
1/2c chopped celery
1tps salt, plus more to taste
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/2# smoked sausage***
1 1/4 quart chicken stock
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 14-oz can of okra – optional
2/3c parboiled rice

1. Make a roux: in a saucepan heat the oil and flour over medium heat. Stirring the whole time, let it combine, cooking until it reaches a chocolate brown color.

2. Into the roux add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, along with the salt and cayenne. Cook, still stirring, until softened a bit – maybe two minutes.Add the sausage and cook another minute or so. Add the stock gradually in order to incorporate with the roux and veggie mix, then the can of tomatoes (and okra, if you like). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Add rice.

3. Cook until the rice is al dente, 15-20 minutes, then take off heat and let stand, covered, until rice plumps up the rest of the way (this is to avoid burning the rice to the bottom of the pot). It took mine about 25 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

***

*The batter is so fluffy with all that meringue that you can add the fruit as you fill the cupcake liners, and it won’t sink. Just fill the liners half way, put in the fruit (I used cherry pie filling, for what it’s worth), and then put another dollop of batter on top. Bake them as you would normally bake them, and voilá! Oh, so yummy!
**I always keep chicken broth on hand. Those 32-ox boxes? Love ’em. Progresso low-sodium chicken broth is right up there with Montreal Steak Seasoning in the stuff-I-rely-on-in-my-kitchen category.
***You can use any smoked sausage from kielbasa to andouille. I had a mystery sausage in the freezer from another recipe, the label long gone. It was a spicy pork, cured variety, and I hope that next time I make this (I will definitely make it again, only in a bigger batch. Will made the best happy noises over dinner), I can identify what it was, because it was totally yummy and held up really well through cooking.

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