Roasted Home-grown Broiler Chicken and Quince Pie

It’s 10pm Central European Time on the first Tuesday of November, 2020, and I’m too terrified to go to bed. When I did that at roughly this time four years ago, Hillary Clinton appeared to have the election in the bag, but the radio alarm clock woke me up at 6:30 am with some certainly most unfabulous other news. I’ve warned Spouse that use of the radio alarm is verboten tomorrow morning, but, still, if I go to sleep, some sort of result will be waiting for me in the morning one way or another. So I’m going to sit here for a while longer and tell you all about what we ate on Saturday evening, when Spouse’s business partner and his wife came over for dinner. Aren’t you thrilled?

Anyway, we had guests coming over (representing only two households and totaling only four of us plus the dog, so well within the current legal limits of get togethers) and it was Halloween, so it seemed like the right time to finally get around the offing the biggest of the four broiler chickens we’ve been growing up. They were hatched at the beginning of May (we picked them up on the 21st, when they were three weeks old), which makes them now sixth months old, which is way more shot at life than these guys normally get (industrially, they tend to get six weeks, unless they’re organic, in which case they have to be allowed to reach at least something like 14 weeks, which is just over three months).

They were (well, three of them still are) sweet, stupid chickens with an insatiable appetite and so much meat on them they all went through a phase of being unable to stand up (in fact, the smallest one still struggles). Watching them sit there stretching their necks forward to feed themselves without standing up was awful and just wrong and we have sworn never to raise broilers again. Anyway, the biggest one managed to hit something like 4 kilos (we never weighed him, but, damn, he was definitely at least twice as heavy as the now no longer last cat standing, and she weighed two kilos there toward the end) and, starting to reach roosterhood, was just starting to become aggressive, working his way up to attacking me if I didn’t give him the food he was entitled to fast enough just like the jerk Bertie Rooster used to do (which is why Bertie Rooster parted ways with his head about a year or so back and, recently defrosted, got turned into Coq au Vin which, honestly, was not great enough to justify all the work that went into it. Thus the young broiler got slow roasted instead.

Although it is embarrassing for someone who has been a vegetarian since the Reagan Administration to have a favorite recipe for roasting chicken, I’ve got one. I found it (Roast Sticky Chicken) in a Sunset Magazine almost ten years back, back when they arrived periodically at my mother’s house, even though she herself had never subscribed to them. It must be a popular one, because here it is exactly: although they fail to give credit where credit is due and I always don’t put onion in the cavity because I think it gives the cooked chicken an unappetizing smell. Anyway, it turned out fantastic, at least from the steaming, juicy looks of it and the fact that not only did no one complain, the guests happily asked for one of the big drumsticks and a hefty serving of breast meat to take home with them for their lunch the next day.

The only time this recipe failed me is when I tried it on one of our egg-laying hens (breaking out of the chicken run one too many times to tear up the garden is a capital offense around here) and ended up with gristle. Now I know that these egg-laying breeds are only edible after numerous hours of stewing, and they’re so scrawny (but fatty), that even that is almost not worth the trouble.

Then, for dessert, I had made a quince pie with five of the six quinces the tree we planted our first year here finally produced. I was dubious… so much sugar!!! But, in the end, it was still quite tart and I will definitely make a quince pie the same way next year, if we are lucky enough to get more quinces. That recipe was here: although I have to say I didn’t bother with all that changing of the oven temperature or placing the pie pan on a hot baking sheet (especially as my pie pan is made of glass and I didn’t think it would be up to that sort of challenge without shattering). I just cover the edges with foil for all but the last 15 minutes and baked it at a normal apple pie baking temperature until the sauce started bubbling out the vents (which took the normal 45-50 minutes).

So, yeah, that was almost all Saturday wasted in the kitchen for a meal that took 15 minutes to eat plus the three minutes it took to eat dessert. In between there was a lot of boring conversation that I tried to alleviate by suggesting we play a game and we tried Tri-Ominos, which is sort of like dominoes but with triangles with numbers on the corners, only to discover the the wife of the business partner must have some sort of severe number dyslexia. She simply could not see where she could put her tiles down. So the game was fun for exactly no one.

Conversation is never terribly successful either. I don’t know what they do with their spare time, but it isn’t any of the things we do (listen to music, watch movies, watch tv, read books and magazines, etc), so it’s hard to find a topic with enough common ground for back and forth rather than one person just holding forth.

But these are trivial worries, compared to wondering if huge riots are about to break out and the country doomed to split into two or three or maybe into four different countries.

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