They’re everywhere. Year-end revelations. New year resolutions. Pick up a paper, listen to the radio, log onto the various nets and webs and there they are. Joys, regrets, wisdoms and the sundry flotsam and jetsam of a year lived and discarded for the promises of what comes next. I used to make resolutions, but like most, they rarely lasted past the first page of the new calendar. So several years ago I resolved not to resolve, and have managed to stick to that resolution ever since. But that doesn’t mean I don’t make lists. Once the trimmings are gone, halls de-decked, tree curbside and house clean, I fix a big cup of something and remember the past 365. Then I write down what I know now that I didn’t the last time I performed this ritual. I supposed you could call it my lessons learned list. On years where nothing much has happened it’s the size of a post-it. This is not one of those years. Here’s a sampling of my What I Know Now List, 2014 Edition:
- One woman can lift 3 tons: Sounds implausible? It’s not, and no, I’m not an ex Eastern European weight lifter or part-time superhero. What I am is someone who packed every item she owned into boxes, then deposited said boxes into every nook and cranny of an 825 square foot apartment. It took 3 burly men with hand trucks and dollies to move three tons of my stuff into and out of a large truck. Feh…bunch of lightweights….
- This country is big, and beautiful, and full of CORN! Don’t believe me? Start in Upstate New York, point car west, step on the gas. The corn doesn’t let up until Wyoming.
- I now know what a stockyard smells like. I could have probably gone to my grave not knowing that one…
- New York City winds its way into your DNA. Leave, and you miss it like family. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl. Good thing too, because it’s one of my best parts.
- Simplifying your life is very complicated. Three tons of stuff, Craigslist, movers, maps, boxes, packing, unpacking, Ikea assembling, Ikea disassembling, Ikea reassembling, new friends/job/life, shoes, Shoes, SHOES!
- With a jar of peanut butter at hand, it’s possible to make a relatively well-balanced meal from the bounty of most rest stop vending machines. Thank goodness for sourdough pretzels, blue diamond almonds, and V8…
- Being chatty is your greatest asset when you’re the new kid in town: Met some pretty swell new friends this year via my gift of the blah blah, yadda yadda yadda.
And I think the most important one, for this year at least:
- The thing that scares you the most is most likely the thing you should do, which is likely why it’s the thing that scares you the most. Yeah, this is all about that “comfort zone” stuff, and how life begins once you dare to take a step outside of it. I hate it when refrigerator magnet wisdom rings true. 😉
There is one thing that I have known for a while, but was reminded of again recently – the joy (and ease) of a simply and deliciously roasted chicken. I must have a dozen clippings of elaborate and delicious chicken recipes, but as with most things simple is often the best. This recipe for Easy Roast Chicken Dinner is as simple as it gets. The only equipment is a cast iron skillet, the only fancy preparation is generously salt and peppering the bird and letting it chill overnight in the fridge. Just add in an onion, some potatoes and a few root vegetables with the bird as it roasts, and you have a splendid one-skillet meal guaranteed to make it on your best of list from now on!
Easy Roast Chicken Dinner
Serves about 4
- One 3 to 4 lb Chicken (free range, kosher, or organic — I like a smaller bird because it fits in my cast iron frying pan better)
- 1 onion, cut into quarters or sixths
- 1 fennel bulb, or 2-3 large carrots, parsnips or whatever other root vegetables you like cut into chunks all about the same size
- 6- 8 small new potatoes (red bliss or yukon gold), cut in half
- Salt and Pepper
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 tsp finely chopped thyme or rosemary
(Although you don’t have to, this recipe is best if you season the chicken the night before you are going to make it and let it sit in the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours.)
Wash and dry the chicken. In a small bowl, combine about a tablespoon of salt, half that of pepper. Sprinkle generously all over the bird. Don’t forget a little inside the cavity, in the leg joints and all the nooks and chicken crannies. Cover with cling wrap loosely and stow in the refrigerator for overnight, a day and up to two days.
When you are ready to roast, preheat oven to 450°F. Scatter the vegetables and onions into a cast iron pan (I use my 10” one). Scatter the potatoes in the pan, cut side down. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little bit of salt and pepper. (Remember, the bird’s juices will do a lot to season the veggies so go easy).
Pat the bird dry thoroughly with paper towels. A dry bird makes a crispy skin. Truss the bird (tie the legs together, tuck the wing tips under). Place bird on top of the veggies in the pan (they provide a nice rack). Roast for 50-55 minutes until it’s done and the juices run clear.
Take the chicken, veggies and potatoes and remove to serving platter. Add the wine and rosemary or thyme to the hot pan juices, stir well, and pour over the chicken and veggies. Cover loosely to keep warm and let rest 10 minutes before carving. Set the table, open the wine, and toast to all the things you’ll learn this year! Calories: about 400-450 calories per serving.
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