“Grass Fed-Up,” a recent article by Alexandra Jacobs in The New York Times, explores how, in this foodie age where comestibles are gelled, foamed, and frothed, there’s a sudden craving for delicious and simple food like roast chicken. Mindy Fox, food editor of La Cucina Italiana magazine and author of the upcoming book A Bird in the Oven and Then Some: 20 Ways to Roast the Perfect Chicken Plus 80 Delectable Recipes (due November 16), agrees… and is here to help satisfy that urge. Fox and food stylist Rebecca Jurkevich talk about the book and share tips on elevating your Thanksgiving meal from ordinary to extraordinary, both simply and beautifully.
CP: Why roast chicken?
MF: Roast chicken is humble but impressive. You hear people say that they don’t know how to roast a chicken. Well, you can roast a chicken, do the laundry, and make a phone call all at the same time. I can’t actually think of any other food that is as amenable. And it makes your house smell good.
CP: What’s the most basic way to make a roast chicken great?
MF: The simplest recipe is the Sea Salt Roast Chicken in the book. That recipe is just about having fantastic salt — flaky, coarse sea salt like Maldon. My favorite one is pyramid shaped. When you crunch on the pieces of salt, there’s this great texture, but they melt. You pull the chicken out of the oven, and you still have little pyramids on the bird!
CP: What was the most unexpectedly delicious thing you discovered?
MF: At one point, I got a brain lock and I still had more ingredients and recipes to think of. I was late to my stepbrother’s birthday party and I jumped into a cab. I should’ve taken the subway because it was a long cab ride, but in the end, it was lucky that I took the cab. The driver was Ethiopian and we were talking about food. He told me that Ethiopians cook a lot of chicken. I was really inspired by that, so I googled Ethiopian ingredients. I found a spice called Berbere, available at Kalustyan’s. It’s a blend of ginger, cardamom, red onion, red pepper, garlic, allspice, rue herb, ajwain, black and white cumin, and salt. It’s very tangy and astringent, almost lemony. Berbere broke my brain lock.
CP: Since it’s November, what about the other bird in the oven? Can the recipes in your book apply to turkey, too?
MF: There’s the same fear and worry with turkey that you’re going to get a dry bird. Success is really about trusting yourself. Have a consciousness and connectedness, but also trust that it’s simple. Use a meat thermometer but don’t touch bone. Watch the juices. Check it in a few different places. If you want to cook and you want your food to taste good, you have to give yourself a chance to learn by doing. Thanksgiving can feel like a “feat,” but it doesn’t have to be.
RJ: Flavor-wise, you can adapt leftover turkey meat to almost any of the recipes from the book. Leftover turkey isn’t just for sandwiches anymore. Use it in the Winter Roast Chicken Salad with Fennel, Blood Orange, and Pistachio or in the Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Roast Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, and Parmesan (recipe below).
CP: Any tips for how to make holiday food look great in photographs?
MF: It’s best to take photos during the day. Take your plate over to the window. Take it to where the natural light is coming in.
RJ: Make sure your food hasn’t been sitting around. No one wants to look at dry, wrinkled food. I’m a minimalist, but a little garnish always helps: one sprig of thyme, a little chopped parsley. Dab it with some sauce or juices from the pan so it looks like it was just pulled from the oven or taken off the grill.
CP: How do you get a platter to look like a work of art?
RJ: If you’ve roasted some garlic or lemon with your bird, add it to the platter. Adding bits of interest to your serving plates will help entice your crowd into what they’re about to eat. Add the dark roasted bits of carrots and onions — even the charred bits. Don’t be afraid of burnt bits, because they’re beautiful and delicious.
For more foodie delights during the month of November, check out the OvationTV.com’s The Art of Food site at for exclusive clips of Eating Art and After Hours with Daniel Boulud and to share food-related art with Ovation community members.
Michelle Fiordaliso, MSW, is a writer, psychotherapist, coauthor of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex, and 2008 recipient of a PEN USA award for fiction. She has been featured as a relationship expert on TV and radio shows such as Today, Tyra, and Oprah & Friends and believes that true bliss lies in bringing creativity to the quotidian acts of life.
Photo: Cover: (c) 2010 by Ellen Silverman from A Bird in the Oven and Then Some by Mindy Fox.
Used by permission from Kyle Books.
Author Photo: Carla Roley
Used by permission from Kyle Books.
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