I usually make this meal as a southern BBQ chicken, but since we had pulled pork earlier this week, I decided to try the Thomas Keller Roast Chicken (of the French Laundry, ooo la la) recipe which could not be easier.
The green bean recipe is something I've made for a long time, though there are many recipes out there that are similar.
I'm also making Alton Brown's "Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese" recipe. Which is awesome.
3-5 pound chicken (Mine was 4.5)
Salt & pepper
1.5 tsp fresh thyme
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Bacon
1 pound (or so) of fresh green beans
2 large shallots (I used 1 large and 2 small)
3 slices of bacon
1.5 tsp fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Mac & Cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
Everything kind of comes together quickly in this and there's not a ton to prep. I started with the green beans. You can do this in the afternoon and stash them in the fridge before service.
Get your shallots and green beans together. I snap the ends of my beans.
Get an ice bath together. We're going to be blanching and shocking the green beans so that they have a bright green color and are nicely cooked.
Get a pot of water on the boil and toss in the green beans. Let them cook for about 4 minutes. I'd say 5 at the max. You want them, for lack of a better word, al dente. Soft, but with a bit of bite.
Drain them and immediately immerse them in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Drain them and wrap in a few paper towels and store in a ziplock bag in the fridge, or if cooking everything now, just stand by.
Get about a tablespoon worth of fresh thyme. I used thyme from my garden!
When you are about 2 hours out from dinner, get the chicken out of the fridge and start to prep it.
There are a few simple but important steps that need to be taken for the chicken. Thomas Keller does a great job of explaining everything in this video.
I made a couple changes that I'll mention. He stresses that the bird needs to be dry. I also read somewhere that stashing the chicken in the fridge for a day (a la aging a steak) will dry out the skin even further, giving the crisp skin we are looking for.
I do not recommend doing this. While the chicken tasted very good, the skin was almost inedible because it was so crispy. Do what Keller says, to the letter.
EXCEPT, for the trussing. I don't have any butcher's twine, so I truss my chickens "au natural". There's a lot of ways to do it, but I prefer this way. It's quick and easy and works well.
So, if we're going to follow Keller's recipe, we just pat dry the chicken after rinsing it.
Now we need to wait for the bird to get up to room temperature. You want to insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.
I don't think it's possible to get to room temp without letting the thing sit all day. In an hour, mine went from 33 degrees to 51. It still cooked evenly, so it's up to you if you want to wait an additional hour or two.
When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and remove the wishbone. Which is really easy and allows to cut the whole thing in half at the end.
Then we season the inside with salt and pepper.
Then truss the bird.
To cook, we'll just put the bird on a saute pan and season the outside with salt, pepper and some thyme.
Pop it in the oven and prepare for 165 degrees. I have an alarm on my thermometer, but it took about 60 minutes. Each chicken will vary.
When it's finished, pull it and let sit on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes. Carryover cooking caused my temp to go from 165 all the way to 173.
I had almost no drippings in the pan, but you can add some water/butter/flour and make a gravy if you so choose. I used some water to deglaze a bit and used it in my beans.
Start the green beans at about 20 minutes out.
Cut up the bacon and render the fat until it's crispy. I peppered it at this point.
Pull the bacon and drain on paper towels. Keep the fat in the pan.
Add the shallots and some salt.
Cook until translucent and add the thyme.
I kept cooking the shallots until they caramelized. I also added a couple spoonfuls of the drippings from the chicken with some water. This helps to caramelize.
When the shallots are nice and brown, add the green beans.
It probably would have been smarter for me to cut them as it was hard to turn them over in the pan. Oh well.
When the beans are heated through, maybe 5-7 minutes, add back in the bacon. Try not to overcook the beans.
Toss to combine and check for salt and pepper.
When you are about 30 minutes out, start the mac & cheese.
Get a pot of water on the boil for the pasta.
Go ahead and prep your cheese sauce.
Combine everything but the shredded cheese in a bowl. Yes, I used hot sauce too. It's not hot in the end, but adds some flavor.
Whisk to combine.
When the pasta is done, drain it and return to the pot over LOW heat.
Add the sauce mixture and give it a quick stir.
Add your cheese and start stirring.
It shouldn't take long to melt into an ooey gooey cheesy sauce. Sneak a taste for salt and pepper.
Serve everything together, family style. I was able to cut the whole chicken in half without any problem, thanks to removing the wishbone. It was pretty cool, but a lot of food.
I found that eating the beans and chicken together was perfect for salt. If you eat some skin with the chicken, it's also a great salty bite. Otherwise, you may need to salt the chicken.
Overall, this meal ruled and wasn't at all difficult to make.