Saturday, April 30, 2011
The Resurrected Life: I Want it ALL!
It’s time to resurrect an old favourite, the roasted whole chicken. And Eastertide is the perfect time for this, for most of our chicken recipes, like caring properly for our spiritual well-being, have been filed away, cast aside in favour of the latest and greatest recipes for well-being and instant gratification. But haven’t those schemes left your chicken overdone and your soul longing for more? So trust me, this recipe – and the little reflection that follows – will breathe new life into your kitchen, and, I pray, into your soul.
This recipe is my amalgamation of the wisdom of Julia Child, Pat Conroy and a lifetime of eating overcooked dead chickens.
Resurrection Chicken with Tarragon Sauce
Ingredients for Chicken
1 large whole chicken (4-6 lbs., trimmed, innards removed and culled. The very finest bird for this recipe is a poulet de Bresse, which are French birds that have been introduced into some cities in the USA. Usually, however, I use Perdue, Springer Mountain or whatever I can find that’s plump, hormone-free and has a nice white-to mild-yellow colour. If it looks good, it probably is.)
1 stick of unsalted butter
¼ cup of olive oil
The juice of one lemon
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon
4 shallots (peeled and finely chopped)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil. In a small pan over low heat, combine butter and olive oil and allow it to melt. Add the remaining ingredients and sauté over medium heat for two minutes. Pour the mixture over, inside and all around the bird. In the words of Julia Childs, ‘stuff that bird till it can’t hold any more’! Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top. Coat the top with more pepper and sea salt.
Place in oven, breasts up, for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 150 degrees when inserted between the thigh and the breast (usually 40 more minutes). Don’t overcook. Most cookbooks and all the ‘authorities’ recommend cooking chicken to 160 degrees then removing it from the oven, but if you follow their advice it’s dry and overcooked! The chicken removed at 150 will continue to cook for at least 15 more minutes and end up at 160-165 by the time you slice it. Once the chicken is done, allow it to redistribute on a rack for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Ingredients for Tarragon Sauce
½ cup dry Vermouth
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 shallot (finely chopped)
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup half and half
¼ cup of grainy Dijon mustard
1 TBSP fresh chopped tarragon
1 TBSP fresh chopped thyme
1 TBSP whole peppercorns
In a sauté pan, combine Vermouth, thyme, tarragon, shallot and chicken broth. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture has been reduced by half. Reduce heat slightly and add the cream, half and half, salt, pepper and mustard. Allow mixture to thicken slightly, reduce heat, and pour over the chicken.
Slice the chicken, spoon sauce over each serving and enjoy your resurrected chicken!
But before you rush out and prepare this chicken, I want you to think seriously about this Eastertide and what it means in your life and in the lives of those whom we love.
Indulge me, then, in a little hypothetical conversation, by which I mean consider asking most Christians to explain the meaning of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You’ll usually get one of two things. Most Christians, especially those with some basic understanding of theology, will say a perfectly accurate theological statement along the lines of ‘Through the resurrection Christ has conquered sin, death and the powers of hell’. A significant number of respondents, however, will basically articulate a get-out-of-hell-free card, and say something like ‘Jesus rose from the dead, and if you believe in Him, too, you can go to heaven for eternity’.
And, yes, both of these are true, that is, they’re both begging to be unpacked and explained. But, dear ones, the Resurrection, the very cornerstone of our faith, is far more than some spiritual way-off-in-the-distance act whereby God in Jesus has overcome death and sin, though He certainly did so. And it is most assuredly not first and foremost a tool through which we escape some morbid version of eternal punishment. No, the resurrection is infinitely richer, infinitely greater than all theological constructs and would-be-methods for escaping eternal damnation.
If you’re reading this and thinking I’m saying Christ’s resurrection offers something besides good theology and soul insurance, I am. In fact, I am completely convinced the resurrection means something more even than the bodily raising of our Saviour from His three-day prison, though it is an historical fact, without which, as St. Paul makes clear, ‘we are of all people most to be pitied’.
I’ll push this even further: I am absolutely convinced the resurrection of Jesus from the dead has as much to do with the ‘now’ as it does the future, the afterlife. And could there be any sweeter news in a sinner’s ear? All I’m saying is that the resurrection as a reality and all of what it means didn’t end on Easter morn; it only began.
The Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Church are clear that Christ’s resurrection, like His Incarnation, interrupts all of time, that is, its power and radiance imitate out from the source, reaching backwards, forwards, and placing itself squarely in our midst right now, that is, today. In street talk, the resurrection means everything right now – this very second!
This, beloved, is why Easter is not just one day. ‘The essential theme of Easter cannot be communicated in a day; it takes a season’, the late Robert Webber reminds us. Indeed, the Sunday of all Sundays, Easter Day, gives way to the whole of Easter, the entirety of the resurrected life.
Eastertide, then, is the season of new birth sine qua non. This is the message of all the gospels, all the Scriptures, all the Fathers, the entire witness of Sacred Tradition: that through the resurrection of Christ we are given new life, new joy, unending power to serve our Father in heaven and the pledge of eternal life. The Epistle of St. Peter puts it this way:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:3).
So this Eastertide, dear ones, consider the fullness of the Resurrection – what it means as a true historical fact, what it means in the afterlife, and, above all, what it means in our lives right now. I want it all; do you?