Roast a chicken

I am not going to write an essay about how easy it is to roast a chicken (very) or how anyone (even you!) can do it because Michael Ruhlman said it much better than I ever could. I will say that roast chicken hits a spot in my heart that I don’t understand – eating roast chicken feels like coming home.

My recipe is slightly fussier than Ruhlman’s, but either is fine. It’s hard to screw up a chicken. I tossed a couple of potatoes in the oven whilst the chicken cooked, and we had baked potatoes as a side dish. Delicious!

Roast Chicken

Start heating oven to 425F. Melt 2T butter. Put rinsed-off chicken in roasting pan with a V-shaped basket. Use a brush to rub the butter all over the chicken. Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt & pepper. Position chicken with one wing side up. Put chicken in oven when it’s finished warming up. After 20 minutes, flip the chicken over to its other wing. After a second 20 minutes, flip the bird breast side up. Put a meat thermometer in the breast and cook until it hits 160F, about another 20 minutes depending on how big the bird is. Remove from oven, let rest for 15 minutes. Carve and eat.

Going to the desert and thinking too much about metaphors

Deserts are about getting rid of what you don’t need – you travel through them and leave behind whatever isn’t absolutely necessary. They whittle you down to your bare essentials, and leave you a better, if more battered, person afterwards.

Sand dunes only exist in a small part of Death Valley’s vastness. It was very windy the day we were there.

Let me tell you that a long weekend in Death Valley is neither so romantic nor so transformative. It was lovely and I learned a lot about the different types of deserts, but I also learned that all those rocks and so very little vegetation gets me a bit down.

This is the scene from Dante’s View. Death Valley National Park has lots of scenic points named after either the Devil or Dante.

The desert, the National Park Service would like you to know, isn’t desolate. There are lots of forms of life there, and they are just as deserving of protecting as more verdant areas, like jungles or forests. This is true. But it just seems so damn barren. It was a beautiful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Golden Canyon, aka, one of several places Star Wars filmed.

Am I a better person for having gone to the desert? I believe that travel always widens your perspective on the world, both in terms of what’s possible to do and what’s out there. But it’s not like we were roughing it. The National Park has a lodge, and we stayed there. It was lovely.

This is all salt, mainly NaCl, the kind you find on your table. I wasn’t brave enough to taste it.

There’s nothing like seeing the barrenness to understand why those literary metaphors of sloughing away what’s not important exist in the first place. You can’t have anything that isn’t necessary if you’re going to survive there. The land can’t support it.

The sunsets are pretty, though.

I would absolutely recommend a visit, though. The land is striking, you can channel your inner geologist, and maybe even pretend that you’re Gertrude Bell or Lawrence of Arabia.

There’s a creek! In the desert! This is Salt Creek, and it’s fed by an aquifer rather than any kind of run-off. The plants and animals in it have evolved to deal with very salty water.

Mmm…. guacamole

a bowl of homemade guacamoleThere’s really only one thing to do when you have a bunch of avocados that are about to be too squishy to use: make guacamole!

This is the Alton Brown guac recipe, and yes, it controversially uses tomatoes. I like extra veggies.

3 Haas Avocados (I had a bunch of small avocados from Trader Joe’s – I just used the 4 or 5 I had since they were on the teeny side)
1 lime, juiced
0.5t kosher salt
0.5t cumin
0.5t cayenne (yes, you can lower this amount if you find it too spicy)
0.5 onion, diced
0.5 jalapeƱo, diced (I remove the seeds – the cayenne gives it enough kick)
1 roma tomato (the recipe calls for 2, but that always seems like overkill to me)
1T chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

Scoop out the avocado pulp and put it in a large bowl with the lime juice, toss to coat. Add the spices, then use a fork (or your potato masher if you have one) to mash everything together. Fold in all the other ingredients. Let it sit for an hour, then serve.