After Brother Dear’s passing in December 2014, his best friend from childhood created a group on Face Book for those of us that shared the same childhood memories, experiences and “rearing”. We all grew up in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools (for the most part) and shared the same childhood. I had always thought much of what I remembered about my childhood was viewed through Rose-colored glasses, and not necessarily the way it was. That is until this group began to share their memories. Now I realize there can be only two explanations – either we are all wearing the same Rose-Colored glasses or we had a wonderful childhood. I’d rather think it is the latter – that we truly had a magical childhood – one that allowed us to be children.
You know the childhood I’m talking about – children played outside until dark. The rule was, when the street lights came on, it was time to run along home. No one locked their doors at night. We shared the same key for our roller skates and drank out of the garden hose. If you wanted to know where your friends were hanging out, you simply looked for the bikes piled up in someone’s front yard. (And we aren’t talking about bikes that were chained up to a light post for fear someone would steal them.) We played in the sprinklers, had our favorite fishing holes, knew how to skip rocks and could bait our own hooks (or get a boy to do it for us). We wished upon stars and believed our wishes would one day come true. Life was good. Life was simple.
Growing up, Sundays were always special. It was a time for the family to gather – cousins, uncles and aunts. Sundays started with church. After mass, Sunday supper was served earlier in the day. The day moved unhurried. Sunday supper was a time for families to gather and enjoy a meal together, usually consisted of chicken – be it roasted or fried. We didn’t get big buckets from the Colonial – Dad broke out his favorite, well-seasoned cast iron skillet and fried up the chicken. A big pot of potatoes was mashed and in the summer there was always fresh corn. I’m not sure which I loved more, the mashed potatoes or Dad’s buttermilk biscuits (from scratch). And Dad made the best gravy on the planet. I put it on everything.
Sunday dinner meant a properly set table. While the menfolk removed their jackets, a white shirt and tie was usually worn. After all, we had come from Mass – everyone was in their “Sunday Best”. Saturdays were reserved for T-shirts and jeans. Sundays were special, magical times.
When my children were small, I did my best to keep Sundays special. We went “home” for dinner – but then life began to change. Today has become too hectic with long hours at the office. It takes two paychecks to make ends meet. And Saturdays are gobble up with errands and household chores, leaving Sundays for lazy “recovery” – recharging the batteries emotionally and physically before facing yet another stressful week.
I say it’s time to take back Sunday! Okay, maybe not every Sunday – but at least one Sunday a month can be set aside for a proper supper, and family time well spent.
One-Dish Chicken Supper with Potatoes and Gravy
1 Roasting Chicken, about 4 lbs
1 ¼ Teaspoon Salt, divided
¾ Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper, divided
6 Oregano Sprigs
1 Lemon, quartered
1 Celery Stock, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
2-3 Medium-size Yellow Onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 lbs Small Red Potatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges*
¼ Cup Flour
Chicken Stock or broth, about 2 cups
Lemon Wedges and Oregano Sprigs for garnish (optional)
Peel and cut onions, set aside.
Quarter 1 lemon. Cut 1 lemon quarter in half again. Set aside.
Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Trim excess fat. Staring at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat.
Combine ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper; rub under loosened skin, over breasts and drumsticks.
Preheat oven to 425-Degrees. Place 4 oregano sprigs, 3 quartered lemon and celery pieces into body cavity. Place 2 spring of oregano on breast meat under the skin. Tuck remaining lemon under skin at thigh joint. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Place chicken, breast side up, on the rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.
Melt butter. Cut potatoes into wedges. Combine ½ teaspoon salt, remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, melted butter, onions and potatoes in a large bowl. Toss well to coat. Arrange onion mixture around chicken on rack. Place rack in broiler pan.
Bake at 425-degrees for 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees WITHOUT opening oven. Bake an additional 1 hour or until onions and potatoes are tender and chicken thighs register 165-degrees. Set chicken, onions and potatoes aside; cover and keep warm.
Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Pour pan drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes for fat to rise to top of bag.
Seal bag; CAREFULLY snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into a measuring cup, stopping before fat layer reaches opening. Discard fat. Add stock or broth to pan drippings to measure 1 1/2 cups total. Pour into saucepan and gently heat.
Combine remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, flour and ½ cup chicken broth in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to liquid in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until gravy thickens, stirring frequently with whisk.
Carve chicken; serve with gravy and potato-onion mixture. Garnish with lemon wedges and oregano sprigs, if desired.
* If using very small potatoes, cut potatoes in half rather than wedges. For additional color, look for a variety of small potatoes – purple, red and white are always nice.