Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roasted Chicken

Making a roasted chicken is one of the easiest ways to do dinner on a Sunday evening. But roasted chicken can also go awfully wrong and come out dry and tasteless. We decided to give a new recipe from a recent Sunday section in The New York Times a spin. What intrigued us was that instead of using a roasting pan, you place the chicken atop two pieces of crunchy baguette bread sliced in half.

We picked up a 5 and a half pound bird from the supermarket and a loaf of ciabatta from our favorite local bakery Rose and Joe's.

After cleaning the chicken thoroughly, we rubbed it down with softened butter, salt, pepper, and some fresh lemon juice. In the cavity of the chicken we placed a half of a lemon, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and one head of garlic cut in half. We then cut the ciabatta bread in half lengthwise, doused it in olive oil (as per the recipe) and sprinkled it with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. We popped it in the oven at 400 degrees for 2 hours.

The idea behind this recipe is that once cooked, the bread picks up all the juices from the bird and gets nice and crusty, making a fabulous addition to your meal. While good in theory, in practice the bread was lacking in crunchiness on many of the parts directly underneath the bird. It had an unpleasant, fatty taste and we discarded it after taking just a few bites. I’m not quite sure if I would attempt this recipe again, but if I did I would lose the olive oil – I think the chicken juices would’ve been sufficient, and the bread may not have been so soggy.

Surprisingly, the chicken came out nice and juicy although no basting was necessary in this recipe (a major plus). The chicken was big enough to last us through two nights of dinner, and we even made some chicken salad with the leftover bits and pieces.

Usually the New York Times is spot on with food, but we both felt that they missed the mark on this one. Perhaps it would help to use a roasting pan to separate the bread and chicken in order allow some room for the bread to get crusty instead of suffocating it directly underneath the bird.

JG Melon

Although I’m pretty sure we’ve already found New York’s best burger (that’d be the one from the little owl), it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to try all the rest of the so-called ‘best burgers’ that figure so prominently on so many top 10 lists.

So it was inevitable that Aj and I found ourselves at JG Melon last weekend, waiting at the bar for the opportunity to be seated and try their famous burger. JG Melon is part bar, part restaurant, which always makes be a bit wary of the quality of food coming out of the kitchen. There’s plenty of bars out there turning out top-notch food, but then there are so many others producing lukewarm, lifeless dishes whose sole purpose is to soak up excess alcohol.                     

Luckily, JG Melon falls into the former category. Aj and I each ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side of cottage fries. The much-heralded burger was indeed excellent – perfectly cooked to temperature and really beefy, both in size and taste. The minimal amounts of bacon didn’t add any flavor or variance of texture, and I would order the burger baconless the next time we come.

And there certainly will be a next time. Not only because of the wonderful burger, but the fantastic cottage fries, as well. Shaped like pickle slices, these little discs of potato nirvana came out piping hot, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were infinitely better than so many of the thoughtless French fries haunting other bar menus.

At $9.50 for the burger and an additional $4.50 for the fries, this certainly isn’t the cheapest deal to be had in the world of burgerdom, but it seems that the 15 dollar price range is pretty much becoming the norm for a burger and fries in New York these days.

So is it the best burger in New York? No – I don’t anticipate the little owl to be dethroned anytime soon. Top 10? I’m going to need to try it again, but it just may make the list…

JG Melon

1291 Third Avenue

New York, NY 10021

Food: 8

Frugal Factor: 7