1. Get up in the dark of morning to drive to a farmers' market 35 miles away. (Is this the best time of year to hit farmers' markets or what?) Spend another half hour trying to find a church out in the suburbs that's been recommended as a good place to visit every so often. Get lost, despite confident directions from two locals. Give up. Come home. Assemble veggies for the Saturday-evening version of a Sunday dinner.
2. Come back home; make lunch; chop up veggies to roast. Remove several months' embarrassing accumulated detritus from inside of my car.
3. While Close Personal Friend is, for reasons I don't quite understand but very much appreciate, cleaning and waxing and buffing my car, transplant flowers; plant bulbs; prune shrubs; cut down sickly and annoying Persian lilac; paint Bilco door with primer. Periodically run inside to roast vegetables, ready chicken; put chicken in the oven and baste chicken.
4. Serve dinner. Ponder one's Prayer of the Church while Close Personal Friend asks, eyebrow raised, "Have you written your prayer yet?" Check e-mail, finally.
Who knew you could pack so much into one day and still think of it as a weekend respite.
Real life: What a concept.
Bonus: What We Et
A day before you're ready to make the chicken, create a brine in a large pot, using 8 cups apple cider; 2/3 cup kosher salt; 2/3 cup sugar; 2 tsp. peppercorns; a bay leaf if you wish; 1 cup chopped onion; 1 cup chopped carrot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Simmer for, like, 10 or 20 minutes, then remove from heat. Add 4 cups of cold water; cool mixture to room temperature. Add 1 roasting chicken (I had a 5 1/2 pound roaster from my buddy Farmer Ken.) Make sure that brine enters into chicken cavity. Place in refrigerator for a day, turning over the chicken (is that the same as flipping the bird?) occasionally.
The next day, drain the chicken; rub with olive oil or butter inside and out; fill the cavity with apple and onion quarters and savory herbs and veggies of your choice (I used celery odds and ends, a skinny little carrot, a garlic clove, homegrown sage and thyme and rosemary.) Roast at 375 degrees, about 30 minutes per pound, basting frequently with a mixture of apple cider, olive oil and some of the herbs you stuffed inside the chicken. You may need to turn down the heat or place some aluminum foil over the chicken so it doesn't overbrown; but the cider basting mixture will give your chicken a lovely mahogany color and shiny glaze. (I used my stand-up chicken roaster -- it's like a round, deep cake pan with a central well and chimney to hold your infusing ingredients; the chicken goes over top, so that when it goes in the oven it appears to be sitting upright in the pan, waving goodbye. I placed a little bit of cider in the well and added the other savory goodies; it looked almost like a table arrangement before I pushed the chicken's butt down over it. This gizmo, unlike many kitchen gizmos, actually seems to work, and cut down on the cooking time too.)
Autumn Roasted Veggies
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Assemble an assortment of autumnal vegetables to your liking, cut into bite-sized pieces -- a quantity that can be laid out on a cookie sheet one layer deep. (My choices today: red potato; rutabaga; butternut squash; celery; carrot; halved Brussels sprouts; red onion; red sweet pepper. I've also seen recipes using cauliflower, yams, parsnips...even radishes.) Toss with about a quarter cup of good-quality olive oil, kosher salt and cracked pepper. Roast for a half hour, gently stirring veggies halfway through. At the half-hour point, add three or four slivered garlic cloves.
Halved, seeded pears (semi-ripe is best, I think -- neither too hard nor too soft)topped with butter and brown sugar and baked or microwaved.