At the Still Point of the Turning World
Residency is over, NOW what? (While I'm waiting for the answer, I'll get some spinning done....)

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Scenario: Theresa's vegetarian DSO is away for the evening, so Theresa decides to roast a chicken.

Backstory: Theresa has actually roasted a chicken in the past, but it was about 10 years ago, before medical school, so the knowledge has now been usurped by things like vaccination schedules and the American Heart Association's cardiac risk stratifications.

Plot: Theresa consults Fannie Farmer, The Joy of Cooking and The Silver Palate. Each has different ideas about how to roast chickens. On a whim, Theresa checks a copy of Roasting: The Simplest Art by Barbara Kafka. She is convinced by Kafka's decisive writing on the subject. Theresa decides to use Kafka's high-heat method.

Build-up: Theresa rinses and wipes clean one 4.3-lb organic chicken. She remembers to remove the bag of giblets from the cavity. She seasons the chicken inside and out with kosher salt, pepper and fresh tarragon. She stuffs two lemon quarters and two tablespoons of unsalted butter into the cavity and ties it shut. She does NOT tie the legs together. While all this is going on, the oven is preheating to 500 degrees (remember: high heat roasting).

Action!: The chicken goes into the hot oven. Theresa jiggles it after 10 minutes of cooking, as instructed, to prevent sticking. She then sets the timer for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, the smoke alarm in the dining room goes off. There does not appear to be any obvious fires in the house. The cats are mildly alarmed. The offending alarm is about 20 feet above, in the cathedral ceiling. Theresa turns on the fan above the stove, and the alarm stops.

At 24 minutes, the smoke alarms in the dining room and the hallway go off. The cats jump to attention, their ears folded back. Theresa drags a chair to the alarm in the hallway and tries to deactivate it, but it seems to be sealed shut with cement. She then runs to get the big fan from the closet and aims it upward, to dissipate smoke. Eventually, the alarms stop. Theresa keeps the fan on.

At 31 minutes, the smoke alarms in the dining room, the hallway and the master bedroom go off. Theresa opens the back door and the windows in the family room and kitchen. She repositions the fan. The reassures the cats and the poor, befuddled dog. The alarms eventually stop. Theresa closes the bedroom door to prevent smoke from spreading in there and setting off the alarm.

At 38 minutes, the smoke alarms in the dining room, the hallway and the guest bedroom go off. Theresa runs to get the small fan from the master bedroom and aims it at the alarms in the hallway and nearby guest bedroom. The cats are truly wigged out now, and the dog follows at her heels with a look of oppression and discontent on her face. After holding the small fan up to the hall/guest bed alarms, they finally stop, followed by the one in the dining room. Theresa decides to close the door to the guest bedroom as well, to contain the alarm in there. First, though, she opens the window in the guest bedroom and scoops up all four cats to bivouack there until the chicken is done. The dog gets enclosed in the master bedroom by herself, because the dog is afraid of Shroom and Zafu.

At 43 minutes, Theresa re-reads Kafka's cooking directions and notes, for the first time, that the recommended cooking time per pound of chicken is 10 minutes/pound, not 20 minutes/pound as it is for lower-temperature methods. It occurs to Theresa that the correct amount of time has passed, so she takes the chicken out to check the temperature. Amazingly, opening the oven door does NOT set off any alarms, but the internal temperature of the chicken isn't hot enough (remember, it has lemons in the cavity), so the chicken goes back in the oven.

All is quiet for about 10 more minutes, and Theresa takes a chance to open up the doors to the guest and master bedrooms so that the creatures can venture back out. She turns off the small fan in the hallway. When she opens the doors, the cats look at her balefully, and the dog bounds into her arms. Then the hall alarm goes off again. Theresa ushers the dog back into the master bedroom, closes the guest room door, and turns the small fan back on again.

Denoument: At 58 minutes, Theresa takes the chicken out of the oven and checks the internal temperature, which is perfect:

Theresa releases the animals from their captivity. They slink out suspiciously. After resting the chicken, Theresa eats some, with rice (she is too traumatized to make any vegetables). Delicious--juicy, with a crispy skin and a light lemony flavor. The dog gets a treat. The cats get catnip.

Will Theresa ever roast a high-heat chicken again?.......