(My First-Ever) Roast Chicken

There are few things in the kitchen that scare me quite as much as roasting a whole chicken.  There are lots of reasons for which I could blame this fear: general squeamishness with respect to handling liver and “giblets” (side note: what ARE those?!); general preference for white meat over dark meat; not knowing how to carve the bird once it’s done; not knowing how to use a meat thermometer…

The main reason driving my fear, though, is this: fear of not living up to my mom’s (delicious) roast chicken.  As it turns out, conquering this fear is even easier than reading the thermometer’s instructions: I just called my mom.  (And pulled up an Ina recipe for inspiration.)

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A Perfect Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole (5-6 pound) chicken
  • salt, pepper
  • Herbs de Provence
  • 1 large bunch rosemary
  • 1 lemon, sliced into about 4 parts
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half cross-wise, plus another 5-6 cloves, crushed
  • about 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch segments
  • 1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced
  • olive oil
  • for the sauce:
    • 1 shallot, sliced
    • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    • about a cup dry white wine
    • about 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Chop all your vegetables first before you get your hands mucked up; place the carrots, fennel, onion, and 5-6 cloves garlic at the bottom of a roasting pan.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and a small handful Herbs de Provence and set aside.  Add about half of the rosemary to the veggie mix.
  2. Remove anything icky from the inside of the chicken, including aforementioned giblets and liver.  Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water and then pat it really, really dry with paper towels.
  3. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  4. Liberally season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Stuff the cavity with the garlic, lemon and the other half of the rosemary.  Brush the melted butter (you could also use olive oil, if you want to keep this dairy-free) all over the chicken’s skin; season with salt and pepper (and if you can, you can stuff some garlic under the skin).  Season some more with Herbs de Provence.
  5. Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen twine.  Tuck the wings under the body of the bird and place it on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  6. Roast the chicken until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F – this took about 1 hour and 15 minutes in my oven. The juices should run clear when you slice between the leg and the breast.
  7. When finished, remove the bird from the pot.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the roasted vegetables and plate them around the bird.  Tent the chicken with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes, while you make the sauce.
  8. At the bottom of your roasting pan, there should be all sort of delicious goodness.  On your stovetop, heat the pan, add the shallots and garlic, and bring the liquid to a boil.  Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the bits from the bottom.  Turn down the heat and let the alcohol cook off a bit, and then remove entirely from the heat.  Stir in the sour cream (you can leave this step out if you’re keeping it dairy free).  Pour the sauce into a bowl and serve as a gravy side.
  9. Be like my mom: serve the chicken with a starch (I made couscous with pine nuts and parsley) and a vegetable (roasted vegetables AND a salad).  Don’t forget dessert.

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The Verdict:

This meal was epic.  Epic, I tell you.  I cannot believe it took me this long to make a roast chicken.  (That being said: it isn’t necessarily a casual weeknight affair, as my mom used to do.  This bird takes tender love and care, and time.)  Ina, Mom, you’re both genius.

Roasted Vegetable Soup

A week after roasting about 5 pounds of root vegetables, we’re finally finishing them off, much to the Husband’s delight.  I snuck roasted veggies in salads, on tarts, into a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and finally, into this soup.

Husband is so delighted, in fact, that he volunteered to go to the grocery store tonight after work.  If I understood anything about how odds are calculated, I would put a numeric figure here; since I don’t, I will just say that odds are very high we will not be eating vegetarian tonight.

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Roasted Vegetable Soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cups roasted vegetables (our mix included parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, onion, fennel)
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh sage (about 4 leaves) and fresh thyme (leaves from about 6-8 stems)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2-3 cups veggie or chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • optional toppings: green onions, sage, sour cream, pistachios, etc.
  1. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Add vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Add the fresh herbs and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the white wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Cook off the alcohol (2-3 minutes) and add the stock.  Turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  (Note: this is an ideal time to get cornbread going! Recipe here.)
  3. Working in small batches in a blender/food processor OR with your awesome immersion blender, blend the stock, veggies and herbs together.  Add stock, as needed, for desired consistency. Season, if needed.
  4. Remove from heat and add the cream, mixing thoroughly.  Serve immediately with desired toppings…and with cornbread, of course!

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The Verdict:

While I debated the merit of posting a recipe that sounds a little too familiar (I did say that there were about 1001 variations on our favorite butternut squash soup), ultimately, I decided this was dinner chez nous last night, so I might as well.  (The real risk is probably in trying to make the Husband eat more roasted veggies.)  In the meantime, this is delicious, filling and makes tons of leftovers – using 100% ingredients that were already in my fridge.  Score for frost living.

Roasted Root Vegetable Tart

I am loving this week of the root vegetable.  Dinner is done in 20 minutes, everything is (fairly) healthy, and the earthiness of the veggies can sometimes stop me from wishing it were spring.

Sometimes.

And then here comes morning, and I actually have to blow dry my hair, so it doesn’t freeze (literally) on my walk to work, and I put on my fleece jacket underneath my long down coat, and then my hat and mittens and boots, and even root vegetables can’t save me.  Oh, spring.  You’re going to be glorious.

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Roasted Root Vegetable Tart

  • one or two cups roasted root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel, onions, yum)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (don’t let it get too sticky!)
  • pinch flour, for rolling out the dough
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • salt + pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry dough so you have a larger surface area.  Put on a large baking sheet, score all the way around (about an inch from the edge), and lightly prick the dough with a fork (to let air escape while it bakes).  Place in the oven and bake about 7-8 minutes, until lightly golden.
  2. While the puff pastry bakes, gently combine the three cheeses in a small bowl.  No need to over work it.
  3. Pull the puff pastry out and lightly spread the cheese all over.  Top with vegetables – root veggies, mushrooms and a little bit of spinach.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 10 minutes.
  4. You’re dominating winter.

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The Verdict:

So easy, so quick & it even looks pretty!  Fact: puff pastry is a gift to dinner.

Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

It is either a mark of supreme laziness or supreme awesomeness that with one 35 minute rotation through my oven last night, we now have the basis for a week’s worth of meals sitting pretty in our refrigerator.

Given that I was able to spend Sunday brunching with the Hubs, imbibing with our friends, and snoozing/alternately chowing down on cheese through the Oscars, I think we can all agree that supreme awesomeness is more likely.  Bonus: our grocery bill was kind to us this week, too.

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Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

  • assorted root vegetables, peeled & diced.  Note: you can use any variety you like (obviously).  This is what we roasted here at home:
    • 3 parsnips
    • 4 carrots
    • 1 sweet potato
    • 3 pounds or so butternut squash
    • 1 bulb fennel (quartered, not diced)
    • 1 red onion (quartered, not diced)
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • dried cranberries
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • homemade dressing (or any dressing you like)
  • optional: nuts, prosciutto, etc.

(Do we even need directions?)

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Peel, dice and appropriately chop your vegetables and scatter in large baking dishes.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper; feel free to use your favorite spices, as well.  Roast for about 35 minutes.
  2. As the veggies come out of the oven, assemble your salad – the warmth of the vegetables will slightly melt the goat cheese, creating a delicious creaminess, and lightly wilt the spinach.  Spoon a little dressing over the salad and serve immediately.  Preferably with some cheese + charcuterie.

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The Verdict:

The Husband was highly skeptical of a “salad” for dinner.  I sweetened the deal with an accompanying cheese board, and we both went to bed with full & happy stomaches.  I just wish that bedtime had happened a little earlier…too much Oscars!

Recipe Redux: Martha’s Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe from Martha ever since my chef-alicious sister posted it during her guest blog.  Sausage + fennel = one happy stomach.

prep work requires wine.
prep work requires wine.

The ingredients and the instructions for Rigatoni (well, Farfalle) with Sausage and Fennel are all on Kathryn’s post.  A few editorial comments:

  • Use less pasta (maybe half a box, especially if you’re only serving for two people), more fennel (the full bulb) and more carrots (one or two more).  The veggies get a bit lost in the pound of pasta.
  • Add a clove or two of minced garlic while you’re browning the sausage, and season the mixture with black pepper.
  • In fact, while you’re seasoning the sausage, a handful of crushed reds probably wouldn’t hurt (if you’re into that kind of thing).
  • While the pasta cools, tossing it with arugula will up the healthy quotient and give it a nice peppery taste.
well done, martha!
well done, martha!

The Verdict:

With a few tweaks (sorry, Martha), this is really, really good.  Well worth your while and your wine.