Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nights in Rodanthe: Roast Chicken with Green Beans, Potatoes, and a Pretty Rockin' Salad

Background: Paul Flanner is a plastic surgeon who travels to the coastal village of Rodanthe, North Carolina in the dead of winter. It isn't a pleasure trip; a woman in his care had died on the operating table during a simple procedure, and her bereaved husband has requested a meeting with him. He checks into a bed-and-breakfast, where he is the only guest. The owner is out of town, and has asked her friend Adrienne Willis to look after it for the week. When Paul arrives and sees Adrienne for the first time, she is looking wistfully at the ocean, crying. A divorced mother of two teenagers, Adrienne is often struck with bouts of loneliness and regret, and when Paul enters her life as a guest at the bed-and-breakfast that isn't hers, she's ready to fall in love again. Paul is also a divorcee', and he has just quit his job as a cosmetic surgeon; once his stay in Rodanthe is over, he's boarding a plane to join his estranged son, who is a family physician in a small medical clinic in Ecuador. Paul and Adrienne spend the week getting to know each other, sharing their dreams and hopes and disappointments and regrets; all the while preparing for a fierce storm that is bearing down on Rodanthe.

On the first evening Paul and Adrienne spend together in the house, Adrienne prepares a dinner of roast chicken with green beans and potatoes. I figured this would be easy enough; I roast chicken all the time. Normally I use a method I learned from my all-time favorite cookbook, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook: Season the chicken with lemon-pepper seasoning, cut a couple of lemons in half, squeeze the juice all over the chicken, and put the lemon halves inside the bird. Take a few sprigs of thyme and put them in the cavity with the lemons, and rub chopped fresh thyme on the outside. Brush the whole thing with olive oil, cook at 350 F until it's done, basting the chicken with the drippings every 30 minutes or so. Since this blog is meant to be a bit of an adventure, I decided to try something different. I found this recipe online from a back issue of Martha Stewart Living:

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 six-pound roasting chicken
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1 lemon
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat


1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion slices in two rows, touching. Place the palm of your hand on top of lemon and, pressing down, roll lemon back and forth several times. This softens the lemon and allows the juice to flow more freely. Pierce entire surface of lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to open slightly. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.

3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees.and the thigh 190 degrees.

4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side. (I skipped the gravy. Larry was very unhappy with me. I promised I'd make it next time.)

From Martha Stewart Living, September 1997 . (source)

The skin was nice and crispy, and a little saltier than my usual version. Maybe that's why Joe liked it so much.


I decided to cook the green beans and potatoes together, and as I was browsing recipes online, this one jumped out at me (I think it was the bacon that did it):


4 cups water
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 slices bacon cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup chopped onion 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Directions: Place the water, beans, potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the beans and potatoes are tender. Drain off the water, cover, and set aside. In a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat, fry the bacon and onion until the bacon is crisp and the onion is tender. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings. Add beans and potatoes and toss until well coated with bacon and onion. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and serve. (source)

Looks like something Martha Stewart would make, if I may say so myself!


I made a little salad with baby greens, gorgonzola cheese, cranberries, and caramelized pecans:

Missy's Candied Walnut Gorgonzola Salad

1/2 cup walnut halves (I used pecans)
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 tablespoon raspberry vinaigrette
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Place walnuts and sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves into a light brown liquid and coats the walnuts. Remove walnuts from skillet, and spread them out on a sheet of aluminum foil to cool.
2. Place in a large salad bowl the mixed greens, cranberries, cheese, vinaigrette, vinegar, and olive oil. Toss gently; add candied walnuts, and toss again. (source)

The pecans turned out perfectly this time! (check out my funny-looking ones here.)

Posting this now, I realize I forgot that Paul and Adrienne put cucumbers and tomatoes on their salad. Ah, well, this one was delicious, and I need to quit being so particular about the details, right?

In the book, they open up a bottle of Pinot Grigio, enjoy a delicious meal, and their lives are never the same.

(See that astro-turf tablecloth? I had gotten it out the previous weekend when we had a get-together for the Super Bowl. I couldn't resist leaving it on the table for another week. Fortunately it's one of those waterproof kinds that can be wiped clean over and over. Joe was very happy to see it finally put away.)

By the end of the week, the storm has passed and Paul and Adrienne are in love. Paul is off to Ecuador for a year; their parting is difficult and tearful but full of anticipation of their life together in the years ahead. What could be in store for Paul and Adrienne? Read the book to find out. (Or you could watch the movie, I suppose, but that would be cheating, now, wouldn't it?)

Next Up: A Bed-and-Breakfast Worthy Breakfast, and one that made my sister-in-law nickname me "Supermom." Boy is SHE delusional.

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