Last week I told you that living in Zürich isn't that different.
I wonder what planet I was on last week (hopefully one of the hot ones since it is currently snowing). Life here is different, very different, for a variety of reasons.
There are the things that are obvious at first, but which eventually slip away and become the background noise that hums this city to life...
...like the colorful buildings and the playful way they touch the sky...
...the long tongue-twisting street names (which simply mean Justice Alley)...
...the traditional Zopf bread, which is braided and fluffy, full of milk, butter and eggs...
...the Alps, most definitely the Alps...
...the farm only a few blocks away from our apartment and the friendly sheep that I greet on my daily walk...
Hovering just above the hum of buildings and bread (and really good butter) are the quirks and ticks, steady and constant, of the people here and how they live. Initially many of the Swiss-isms ruffled me. I wanted to scream Relax! and cut an escape hole in their perfectly constructed box. But, as it tends to go, instead of the Swiss climbing out, I've found myself slowing creeping in and adjusting to life in Switzerland by becoming just a little bit Swiss around the edges (and the edges are sharp mind you).
I used to be fashionably late to parties and now I show up on time with thirty seconds to spare. It's the Swiss way; they are a punctual group, with the entire country running with the precision of a Swiss watch. The perfectly synced and scheduled network of trams, trains, busses and boats can get you anywhere you need to go and exactly on time. It's wonderful for dinner party hostesses: your guests will arrive exactly when you asked them to, if not a little early. Knowing this you can put the chicken in the oven thirty minutes before start time, which leaves half an hour for a cocktail and some gougères before you pull the beautifully crisp and golden bird out of the oven. Ta-da! Hostess-with-the-Mostess! And sober to boot because you didn't guzzle those three compulsory glasses of the-roast-is-cold-beans-are-mushy-where-are-the-damn-guests wine. So invite us over for dinner and we'll be there exactly thirty seconds before you were expecting us.
Another Swiss-ism will strike just as we are leaving your perfectly hosted party. I'll tell you how lovely it was and how much we enjoyed the evening and then I'll proceed to kiss you on the cheek three times (trying to one up the French I suspect), and launch into a bout goodbye diarrhea - Aufweidersehen Merci Vilmal, Dankeschön, Schönes Wochenende, Bis Bald, Tschüss, Bis Morgen, Widerleurge!! Okay so maybe I won't bombard you with the Swiss goodbye at your Haus, especially if you are American, but I will - the goodbyes not the kisses - with the cashier at the grocery store, the vendors at the farmers market and the receptionist at the doctors office. I play goodbye ping-pong until I've run out of goodbye terminology and then I smile and run before it has time to start up again. Ciao Ciao!
In the meantime make and eat this roast chicken.
Roast chicken on our table is a sure sign of a life lived differently in Zürich. I'd never handled a whole chicken let alone roasted one before we moved here. Now we eat a version of roast chicken at least once a week. I can't believe I haven't shared a roast chicken recipe here yet. I think it's because it's quick and comes together when it's already too dark for photos. I have time to cook, but that doesn't mean I don't love an easy dinner, especially one that not only looks fancy but tastes damn good. I approach roast chicken like a one pot meal or a one bowl cake, I put the chicken on a baking sheet and surround it with potatoes, carrots and onions, which will all soften and flavor with the help of a little olive oil and the drippings from the chicken. It couldn't be easier.
// Roast Chicken //
note : Swiss chickens are small. The biggest I've been able to find is only about 1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds. It's a good size for 2-4 people, but any more guests and I need to make two. It goes without saying that you should buy the best chicken you can find, even if that means spending 25chf (!!) on said organic chicken. The taste is worth it.
Read/use this recipe with the understanding that there are as many ways to roast a chicken as there are clouds in the sky (or snow flakes on the ground in Zürich right now). This is just one way that I like because you put it in the oven and then come back an hour or so later and take it out - no basting, no flipping, no nothing.
And in regard to how many potatoes, onions & carrots you need will totally depend on how big your baking sheet is. My baking sheet is half the size of a normal baking sheet because my oven is only about as big as the one in Barbie's dream house. If you have a big oven and a big pan feel free to load it up with veggies. Brussels sprouts also make a nice addition.
chicken - 1.5 kg / 3.5 lbs
apple - 1 small, to shove in the cavity
rosemary - a few sprigs
thyme - a few springs
salt and pepper
potato - as many as fit on the pan
carrot - as many as fit on the pan
onion - at least two, but more if there is room
Preheat the oven to 425ºF / 220ºC
Pat down the bird with paper towel so that it is dry. Sprinkle generously, inside and out, with freshly ground salt and black pepper. Place the rosemary and thyme in the cavity first and then follow with the whole apple (feel free to substitute an orange slice). Flip the wings so that they rest on the breast instead of under the chicken.
Cut the potatoes into chunks, the carrots into slices and the onions into wedges (don't separate the onion wedges or the onions will dry out in the oven). Toss with 1-2 tablespoons or more if using more veggies. You want the oil to lightly coat the veggies not drown them.
Place the chicken on the baking sheet and surround with the vegetable, taking care to place the potatoes flesh side down so they get crispy. Drizzle the bird with olive oil or smear with butter (either way, both butter and oil will help the skin get crispy).
Put the chicken in the oven and cook for approximately 45-60 minutes. If you cut the bird you want the juice to run clear not pink. When the chicken is done place it on a cutting board and cover it with tinfoil. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting it. While the chicken is sitting put the vegetables back into the oven, but turn oven off, or into a warming drawer if you have one.
Cut the chicken into leg-thigh and breast sections and serve with the vegetables and a simple salad.