“Harry is a big boy with a big heart!” read the caption on his Petfinder profile.
I shouldn’t even have been looking at the site, routinely breaking my heart with pictures of saucer-eyed fuzzballs, since we were still settling into the house we’d moved into four months ago.
But there he was with his triangle face and pink nose, lounging like a sultan and chubby as Jabba the Hutt, and my hand reached for the phone.
With that kind of girth, I knew he was a hearty eater, but I was completely unprepared for the depths of Harry’s hunger.
This was a cat who nibbled on my fingers—and licked my cheek—as a morning breakfast reminder, who sang operatically when he wanted to drink from the faucet, and who recognized the sound of a freezer door opening.
The food writer found her food cat counterpart. Like mother, like son.
Though the boys are banned from eating human food and the kitchen counter is strictly off-limits to pink pawpads, Harry’s bucked the system more than once.
Somehow that whalecat manages to catapult his hefty behind to the forbidden zone to chomp on bagels, bread, leftover Thanksgiving pie, cupcakes, and cheesy poofs.
He even once gnawed through both a paper bag and plastic wrapper to abscond with a piece of coffee cake.
Our house motto is “nothing is safe,” and yet I continue to leave food unattended. It’s really my own damn fault.
Though he’s yet to meet a carb he doesn’t like, Harry’s heart and stomach truly belongs to poultry. That cat can detect a bird at 50 paces—and he’s even got a nose for the raw stuff.
He circles around my legs like a furry shark the minute the chicken hits the counter, places himself strategically behind my feet in hopes I’ll trip and drop an entire roasted bird onto the floor.
He yowls and mrrrroooowwwwws for his cut of meat until the last bite is sealed away in Tupperware and he can’t smell it anymore.
And it’s not just chicken that provokes this reaction.
Duck confit piques his interest mightily, and I caught him trying to snag a turkey carcass from the trash one Thanksgiving—apologies for the blurry photo, but I was hyperventilating with laughter.
Harry turns eight years old today and is down to a svelte 14-and-a-half pounds.
For his birthday, he’ll get his customary small plate of plain shredded roast chicken, which he’ll hoover down without even chewing (seriously, Harry—how do you even taste your food when you do that?)
Then he’ll beg in vain for more. Harry is not picky about how the chicken’s cooked as long as he gets to eat it.
Roast chicken is one of those cook-once, eat-thrice meals at our house (chicken pot pie and chicken broth being meals two and three on that list).
I typically either salt mine overnight, Zuni Cafe-style, or just rub it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper before throwing it into a 400-degree oven for about an hour.
But there are a flock of ways to roast chicken, and in honor of my beloved black-and-white whalecat, I’m including an option that gives you a side dish of roasted vegetables made right in the pan.
The key to any good roast chicken—or any roast cut of meat— is to get a probe thermometer to make sure you’re roasting it to the right temperature.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. My preferred probe thermometer is less than $20, and has lasted me for years.
And this holiday season, please consider slipping a little something into the stockings of cats and dogs in need.
Even if you can’t adopt a shelter pet (or two! Pairs of cats are healthier and more well-adjusted than solo pets), even the smallest donations are gratefully accepted at no-kill shelters and foster groups in your area, or national organizations like the ASPCA and the Petfinder Foundation.
- 1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 large red onion
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound baby red potatoes
- 1 bunch lacinato kale
- Truss the chicken, if desired.
- If you have time, do an overnight dry brine: The night before you want to roast the chicken, place it on a small rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let it sit in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, pat the chicken dry with paper towels, rub it with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle it with black pepper.
- If you don't have time, just rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice the onion into 5-6 thick rounds and place in a single layer in a roasting pan.
- Place the chicken on top of the onions and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Set the thermometer to 170 degrees and put that chicken in the oven.
- While the chicken roasts, scrub and quarter the potatoes, and destem the kale, chopping it into large pieces.
- Toss the vegetables with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- When the thermometer reaches 85 degrees (after about 30-40 minutes of roasting), remove the pan from the oven and arrange the vegetables around the chicken.
- Return the pan to the oven and continue to cook. Toss the vegetables once or twice more as the chicken roasts to make sure they cook evenly.
- The chicken should hit its mark of 170 degrees after about 90 minutes of roasting, but timing will vary based on your specific oven and the weight of the bird.
- Carefully transfer the chicken to a rimmed platter or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 578Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 132mgSodium: 295mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 45g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
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