Before the pandemic hit New York, I ate out so often and didn’t exercise my cooking skills often. But starting around the beginning of March, I’ve been cooking frequently. Back on Passover, I was living by myself and participated in one Zoom and one Go To Meeting seder, so of course I was responsible for all my own cooking. I managed to score an organic whole chicken at my local Key Food and cooked the following improvised recipe, which I’ve honed a bit since then. It shows the Indian influence on my aesthetic, but it’s my own recipe. If you try it, let me know how it comes out. Especially if you have a large chicken, you may want to up the amount of each spice.
This is a rough approximation.
1 whole chicken or the equivalent in chicken parts (I prefer pasture-raised or at least free range/organic, and I find it does matter for taste)
several carrots (3-5 depending on size)
a couple of handfuls of raisins (optional - include if it’s OK for your diet and you want more sweetness and fragrance)
2 large onions or 1 large and 1 medium-sized onion
At least 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala from Dual (Dual is my beloved Bangladeshi-owned spices and sundries store and their garam masala is delicious, but you can always make your own or try another store’s masala)
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1/3-1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/3 tbsp ground cinnamon (Sri Lanka cinnamon is healthier for hypertension patients because unlike Sri Lanka cinnamon, cassia - the default kind of cinnamon - has high amounts of coumarin, a natural blood thinner)
about 1/4 tbsp or 1/2 tsp cayenne
water as needed
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel the carrots and cut into about 1/8-1/4" slices (no more for most of them - if they’re too thick, they won’t be done when the chicken is). Divide the wide slices near the bottom into 2, 4 or more. The narrow slices near the top can be like 3/4" long.
Peel the onions, discard the fibrous part near the root and the top where the stem would sprout. Cut into quarters and then separate the layers by hand.
Place the carrot pieces and onion slices all around the sides of your roasting pan.
If you are using raisins, sprinkle them around the sides of the pan, too.
Cut each lime in two. Squeeze the juice out of the limes. Discard any pits and the remaining parts of the lime. Retain the juice.
Measure out all the spices and put them into a cup. Mix them up. You may taste them to see whether the proportions seem good.
Put the chicken in its bag (if it’s enclosed in a tight-fitting plastic bag, common for supermarket-bought whole chickens) in the middle of your roasting pan. Carefully puncture one area of the bag with a sharp knife. Let any juice come out of the bag into the pan before you throw the bag away.
Check the cavity for giblets and packaging material. I recommend reserving the liver and cooking it separately on the stove (separate recipe below), but any other giblets - the neck, heart, stomach - can be put in the pan if you like.
Pour the lime juice on the different parts of the chicken and also on the vegetables around the pan.
Rub the spice rub all over the chicken and pour some of it around the rest of the pan.
Put the roasting pan in the oven. Baste every 20-30 minutes and add cold water or water from a teakettle when there is no longer enough liquid at the bottom of the pan.
When the chicken is fully cooked (the meat should not be at all red and when you cut into it, no reddish juice should come out) perhaps 2-3 hours later, depending on the size of the chicken, there should still be some gravy at the bottom of the pan.
Serve the chicken with some of the vegetables as a side and pour some of the gravy over everything.
This is what I like to do with the liver:
Chicken Liver with Onions, Vinegar and Pepper
1 chicken liver, or however many came with the chicken. You may also include the stomach and heart if you like, but they take somewhat longer to cook than the liver.
2 regular-sized cloves of garlic or the equivalent
extra virgin olive oil (also works with butter, etc.)
about 2-3 tbsp of cider vinegar or another kind of vinegar, or of fairly robust red wine if you have some
pepper to taste
Mince the garlic
Chop the onion
Put some olive oil or whatever type of fat you’re using into a small pan on a low flame
Add the garlic. Stir and turn over frequently enough to make sure it doesn’t burn. It’s OK if it browns a bit.
When the garlic has turned a bit golden, add the onion. You may turn up the heat a bit and caramelize the onion. Alternatively, you can caramelize the onion in a different pan and then add the sauteed garlic to that pan when the onion has browned a bit. If you want to caramelize an onion, it’s best to use a moderately low flame with olive oil, which has a low smoke point. Let the onions cook for a few minutes on each side till they brown a bit. They don’t all have to brown.
When you’re satisfied with the state of your onions and garlic, add the liver. At this point, you will need to add some of the vinegar or wine, if you haven’t already added some to the onions. Continue adding the vinegar or wine whenever the food dries out, though if you think it’ll get too strong, adding a bit of water is also OK.
When the liver is cooked through (I prefer no redness at all, but restaurants have a different attitude), add pepper to taste, stir and eat.
This simple liver preparation is a good cook’s treat to eat while the chicken is roasting.