Got a woman? No? That’s because you don’t know how to roast chicken. Do you want that girl in French who’s been shyly eyeing you from across the room — the one with cute clothes and the coquettish smile? You could take the typical approach, buy her dinner and see a movie. You could take her on a romantic stroll beside Tempe Town Lake and watch the city lights reflect in obsidian waters. These approaches are all tried and true by your average Tempe bachelor, but let me tell you how to outplay those chumps and win your woman.
The Greek poet Homer spoke of food’s spell-binding power. The hero Odysseus and his men land on the island of lotus-eaters, and instead of killing the men, the island’s natives offer them taste of the honey-sweet lotus fruit. So delicious is the nectar, it robs the men of their ambition. Enchanted, they forget all thoughts of returning home.
A proper romance is founded on food and drink, so shut up and roast her a chicken. If you take the time to treat your chicken well, she will certainly return the favor. Dish up some roasted carrots, potatoes and leeks on the side so she knows you eat your vegetables.
She will eat from your hands.
You don’t have to sweat or toil over your bird, the oven does it for you. Your only job, my man, is to avoid disaster. And I’ll tell you how.
Know your wine
Spend at least $9 on a good bottle of white wine, because most reds are too robust for a simple chicken. Put the wine in the fridge when you get home, as it should be served cool.
Cook with confidence
If this is the first time you’ve cooked for her, don’t let her see it. Food knows when you’re nervous and so does she. If you wield your knife timidly, it will cut you. Should you lay a fish filet in hot oil hesitantly, you will be burned. Acknowledge your limitations, but there is no reason to be afraid of food. Everything you cook is already dead. Relax.
Prep your chicken
Proper cooking technique is sexy. Trussing a chicken compacts its breast and brings the thighs closer to the body, ensuring even cooking. It’s a fancy trick that’s easy once you’ve done it once properly.
Temper your bird
This is an essential step oft overlooked. An hour before you plan to start cooking your chicken, leave it on the counter, bringing it to room temperature. A cold chicken will take ages to cook and lower your oven’s temperature. The oven should stay consistently hot so the bird browns quickly and evenly.
Season your bird
Sprinkle the chicken with a generous coat of salt and black pepper. Season the inside of the bird’s cavity, as well.
Mind the breasts
The trouble with roast chicken is that the lean white breast meat cooks more quickly than the dark leg meat below. Usually, your date will go for the white meat rather than the legs. If she doesn’t, you’ve found a keeper.
To ensure the white meat stays moist, slip your fingers gently underneath the skin above the breast. Slide a few pieces of butter and a sprig of thyme or rosemary inside the cavity. She’ll appreciate the added attention.
Cook your bird
Congratulate yourself — the hard part’s over. Now just let your oven do the work. Set your chicken in a roasting pan or large skillet and place in the oven at 450 F to brown for about 20 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 F and let your chicken cook for an hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh registers between 155 F and 160 F. Any more and you risk overcooking the white meat.
Let your bird rest for 20 minutes before carving, allowing the chicken to cool. As the temperature of the meat drops, its water-holding capacity increases, resulting in a moist, succulent dinner. The structure of the meat also firms, making your bird easier to carve.
Your chicken’s presentation is a matter of individual style. Carve tableside to impress her with your knife skills or plate her dinner in the kitchen to add a refined flair to the night. Pour a glass of wine and enjoy your handiwork.
Offer her finely cooked food, and she’ll never look back.
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