When I was a college student, I was living in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in downtown Iowa City.
The apartment was on the top floor of a converted seminary/converted office building and, consequently, had a tiny kitchen — maybe 6-feet long by 3-feet wide, but my very first. And it was here that I began to take a serious interest in cooking.
On a limited student budget, I typically cooked pasta dishes (and frittatas from their leftovers), or batches of stir fries made with any ingredient on hand or that I could afford.
Since one cannot live on pasta and stir fry alone, I eventually started to expand my menu by reading cookbooks, as well as food magazines and newspaper columns.
One of these columns was in either Bon Appetit or Food and Wine magazine, with a title like, “Quick and Delicious Chicken Recipes.”
One of my favorite recipes was Poulet Rôti — French-style Roasted Chicken.
I was never able to quickly execute any of these dishes, especially in a kitchen without any counter space. Nevertheless, my efforts often were rewarded by tasty meals that I made for friends.
This particular dish looked and tasted like it took hours to prepare.
Recently, while going through cookbooks and old recipes I had cut out from food magazines, I came across this infamous Poulet Rôti recipe, stained and torn, but still readable. Seeing it brought back so many memories that I felt I had to make it.
It’s a relatively simple recipe with minimal ingredients, easy cooking directions, and yields a delicious dish, especially when served with a side salad.
The chicken is moist, tender and lemony, bathed in a buttery sauce flavored with thyme, lemon and garlic.
Along with the potatoes, it has a sort of retro look that on a cozy evening provides some measure of comfort.
This time around, I followed the recipe except for adding fresh ground pepper and additional seasonings to taste. I also have learned from experience to not add any extra herbs on top of the chicken as they will burn. Just sprinkle the chicken with coarse sea salt.
Keeping one’s eyes on the cooking temperature is essential for this dish, so I recommend placing a meat thermometer into the crook between the chicken’s breast and thigh. The temperature should read 165 degrees.
One final note: As was the case decades ago, friends and family love this dish and think that it takes much more effort and skill to cook than it does. The presentation is beautiful, and your house (or tiny apartment) will smell amazing.
Kimberly Thompson is the owner of The Grateful Gourmet in Galena, Ill.