The bones are all that's left of the bird we roasted Saturday evening. It was my first chicken; my first attempt at transforming the cold, clammy flesh into something worthy of a warming fall celebration.
Our guests were bringing vegetables and dessert, and I'd kicked my roast-hungry sous chef out from the walls of the tiny kitchen, determined at last to learn this bird.
I'd picked it up in Dartmouth that morning—at Paskamansett Farms—packed it gently into a large white cooler to rest alongside two sister birds.
With the freezer already well stocked—there was a pig from the same farm, smoked into bacon and packed into sausage, a good supply of grass fed beef from a Foxboro farm, and assorted bundles of lamb from a Barnstable shepherder already in—the chicken and her sisters would round out the winter.
Confronting her in the sink, I rinsed and washed her body cavity with cold water, checking for an organ here or there and finally laying her down. I chopped onion and apple, carrot and butter, and threw a handful of breadcrumbs and cranberries into a bowl. With a spoonful of poultry rub and a good bit of salt and pepper, her stuffing was made.
With a few cloves of sliced garlic and a few sprigs of thyme in hand, I turned back to the bird. Slowly, carefully, I felt my way beneath her skin and began to spread the seasonings against her fat. The garlic rested heavy on her thighs and breast, and I rubbed her well with salt and pepper.
The oven heated up, and I began to stuff. I packed her full until finally her skin just stretched to conceal the bread, fruit, and fat, and sewed her up. I felt the heat begin to rise from the oven, and worked quickly to give her one last gift. Chopping quickly, I filled her pan with turnip, onion, and brilliant orange butternut squash.
It made for a magnificent send off—this ferry of herbs and color—wending its way towards the oven barrow. On the plate, it was equally splendid. Meat and root fell together, fruit crunched tart, and a savory gravy of herbs and fat filled out the meal. She didn't last long.
But today, meat gone and bones light, she's back to the soup pot for the final journey.
Make stuffing. Chop and combine in a bowl: 1 good sized carrot, 1 firm apple, and 1/2 large white onion. Add 1 and 1/2 cups torn bread, 1 stick butter, cut up, and 1 cup cranberries. Season with poultry rub and salt and pepper to taste; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pick and have handy several sprigs thyme. In a finger bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Peel 1 head of garlic and cut each clove into thin slices. Rinse whole chicken inside and out in cold water; put in roasting pan or dutch oven with 4 tablespoons olive oil drizzled over bottom. Gently work fingers between bird's skin and flesh, and push in garlic and thyme, spreading evenly over thighs and breast. Pack bird with stuffing; stake or sew shut with twine.
Peel and chop 2 cups butternut squash, 2 cups turnip, 1/2 onion, and 1 apple. Throw around chicken in pan. Cover with tinfoil or put dutch oven lid on, and put in to bake for about 1 hour, or until skin is crisp and bird cooked through. Put stuffing and root vegetables into serving pans; baste bird with juices and let rest 15 minutes before serving. Save bones and meat scraps for soup.