Only 7 days left before the move. Next Thursday we get the keys to our new place, a different apartment in a different neighborhood not far from here. My mind is cluttered with thoughts, wondering why I packed ________, which I really need right now, and how much of our furniture will actually fit in this smaller unit, measuring in at 900 square feet. Packing paper and cardboard boxes threaten to take over, while empty closets hold only the echo of memories. My husband and I spent two years here, a long time for us. I like this place, with its many windows and sun-drenched views of meadow and pond. Our lease is up, though, and the rent is only getting higher. It’s time to move on.
I get a thrill from moving on, always welcoming a fresh start- the feeling that anything is possible. My mom says it’s a trait from my dad’s side of the family. We don’t hold on to the past, we don’t dwell on memories. My dad left us when I was 12 years old, never looking back. After that, mom wanted out of the home my little sister and I grew up in- too many memories, too many ghosts. There would be many more moves, from duplexes to apartments, each time with the promise of a fresh start for the three of us. I carried with me the belief that things would get better, encouraging my mom and holding onto my sister. All that moving means there’s not a lot left of our childhood memories. I keep a box with a handful of photos and a doll my mom made for me, my sister is the caretaker of a tiny nativity in a cigar box that belonged to our dad. Now she and I are grown and married, and things have gotten better. I married an Irish rover with itchy feet, a man who gets a thrill from new places, new discoveries. I like that about him. No matter where we go, together, we are home.
For me, the ritual of cooking and enjoying a meal together is part of what makes a house a home. Simple roast chicken is something I make again and again. Usually, I stuff the bird with garlic, lemon wedges, and sprigs of fresh thyme, then slather it in butter with a hefty sprinkling of salt and pepper before placing it on a roasting pan and into the oven. My husband always carves the chicken while I sit on the kitchen counter with a glass of wine, eagerly awaiting offerings of crisp skin to nibble on. After the meal is done we pull on the wishbone, knowing we both wish for the same thing, so it doesn’t matter who wins (I can’t tell you what or it won’t come true). This classic roast chicken is perfect, and the idea of trying a recipe for Poussin à la Moutarde (chicken with mustard) I found in The Taste of France took a long time to come to fruition. Now that I’ve given it a go, I must say it’s the best roast chicken I ever made.
To make Chicken with Mustard, slather the bird with a thick coating of Dijon mustard and slide a couple sprigs fresh tarragon into the cavity. Nestled into a ceramic dish with raised sides to contain the juices (or a cast iron skillet), the chicken roasts in a 425 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 40 minutes. The skin caramelizes, turning a deep, rich brown color. Heat 1/2 cup crème fraîche in a small saucepan over medium-low until liquified (just a couple of minutes) and pour over the bird, placing it back into the oven to finish cooking (about 10 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit). Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa in Paris, I served the roast chicken and juices with croutons. Instead of baguette, I sliced a loaf of dark, bittersweet pumpernickel rye into cubes and sautéed the croutons in butter until toasted. The chicken was incredibly moist and tender, with a sweet, mellow flavor of mustard and anise aroma of tarragon infused into the meat. Rustic croutons were perfect for soaking up the succulent juices. Roast Chicken with Mustard is simple and yet luxurious, a beautiful meal to share at home, wherever you are.
Each week I write a column for the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website, for more on this recipe and the original article, click on the icon below.