What's Up? Chicken butt!

So as you know, one of my goals this year was to get more creative in the kitchen. I've talked at length about my insecurities in the kitchen, how my Type-A personality really just wants to follow directions to the eighth of a teaspoon. The idea of a "dash of this" or "salt to taste" makes me break out in hives. It's all terribly ironic that I find myself cooking for twelve people every week, but I've gotten by with my standard five recipes that I can cook blindfolded and no one has complained about yet.

But. I'm trying to stretch myself this year. Trying to get out of my comfort zone. Trying to get creative. And nothing says creative like dealing with an entire chicken. At least for me. If you're a defeathering, impaling on a beer can, trussing pro, you can just read this with gentle amusement and an eye roll or two.

Anyway, the goal: Martha Stewart's Whole Roasted Mustard Chicken, as featured in this month's M.S. Living magazine. It looked simple enough (entire recipe fit on an index card) yet scary enough (um, whole chicken) to qualify for my little project.

Here's what we're shooting for.
Step one: obtain ingredients. This was accomplished after dropping Annie at daycare this morning. Thank you all US Presidents all for granting me the day off. The whole chicken was found, the rosemary thyme was procured, the cashier offered lots of encouragement when I showed her the recipe.

Reading through the recipe, I noticed that the chicken was supposed to be at room temperature. This creeped me out. Leave some raw chicken to hang out on the counter for a few hours? I'm no cook, but I feel like this flies in the face of all food safety laws out there. But whatever, I let the bird sit out while I watched an old episode of X-Files (hello Netflix streaming, I love you).

Step two: slice up ingredients. Easy.

Step three: deal with chicken. Here's how it went down. First, I wrestled the chicken out of its packaging. There were... parts... that needed to come out of the body cavity. I tried not to look too closely as I rinsed it out. Then I had to "pat dry" so I made a nice little bed of paper towels to lay the thing on. Once it was nice and dry, I washed my hands. Safety first. The next instructions were to salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. But how to hold the thing open while simultaneously operating the pepper grinder, all the while not contaminating anything with my raw chicken-infected hands? I settled for making a little seasoning dish with the salt and pepper. Then I had to stuff two lemons and the thyme up in there. And then I washed my hands. I placed the chicken on the vegetables. And washed my hands again. Now I had to rub oil all over the body, followed by brushing on the mustard, then more salt and pepper. I tried to touch as little as possible. I had my right hand covered in chicken, my left hand attempting to rub and brush and sprinkle (in retrospect, those hands should have been reversed). And then I washed those hands. Oh yeah, but I still had to tie the sucker up. I'm sure there's an official, nifty way to tie up a chicken, but my method of winding my fancy twine (which may or may not have silver sparkles on it) around that bad girl until she can't move seemed to work fine.


Step four: into the oven. Finally. I was so exhausted I had to go lie down in the dark bedroom and rub lotion on my poor, chapped hands. All that work, all that hand washing, and the thing could still kill us with its underdoneness. Oh Martha, why do you do this to me?

All tied up and ready to go.
But lo and behold, what felt an hour and a half later (because it probably was), Matt arrived to pull this baby out of the oven! The veggies were a little overdone (not a hint of green left on those brussels sprouts, I'm afraid) but the chicken was mercifully cooked through. I let him have the honor of carving her up and I'm not going to lie, I soaked up every one of his compliments to the chef. And there you have it, folks. I roasted my first whole chicken and lived to tell the tale.

Who's hungry?
Credit where credit is due... 

Thank you Martha for the recipe. None of this would have been possible without Kim's roasting pan and meat thermometer - thanks for making sure my meat was cooked to a sufficient doneness. And thanks for leaving me the key to your house so I can go plunder your kitchen for the necessary tools I lack. Thank you to my supportive husband for his kind words and carving skills. Thank you to my kids for eating the chicken (I didn't even bother them with the veggies). Thank you to the lovely Publix cashier who gave me the confidence boost I needed while I waited in line. And finally, thank you to the internet, for teaching me that the correct name is brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts, as I've been calling those suckers for years. Feeling simultaneously smarter and more idiotic now. (And for the rest of you whose minds I just blew with that little fact, you're welcome.)

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