Okay, you’re under stress, you don’t have a lot of time, but you require a nourishing, substantial dinner that’s just a little big fancy but doesn’t keep you in the kitchen for the afternoon. The next time you’re in that situation, run for this recipe! It’s been a challenging week with an unexpected trip to Maine and some sad events in my family. But that’s a story I’ll tell another time. For now — still too much to do!
Even when things are hectic, we still need to eat. At crisis times it’s even more important to keep food on the table and everyone sitting down together to connect and breathe for a minute. There’s something about a simple roast chicken and vegetables that becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s grounding and a bit old-fashioned. Like a comfortable, old oak rocking chair, it gives you the solid sense you can get through anything.
My niece, Tessa, and nephew, Jed, pitched in to help with this dinner — they are terrific assistants, and I love being in the kitchen with them. The last time I made this dish, actually, was over the holidays, and they were my helpers then too. This setup is so simple that a ten year old with a little experience in the kitchen could easily pull off. Or an adult with zero kitchen confidence could do it too! The great thing is that a full dinner — chicken and an array of vegetables — cooks all together in one pan, and everything is ready at the same time — leaving a single pan to clean. What’s also great is that if you need to, you can use bags of pre-cut veggies, making this truly the most effortless thing in the world. But you can slide things into pretty serving dishes, and anyone you’re feeding will feel that you’ve made something special for them.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1 roasting chicken
- 1 large onion
- 1 lemon or orange
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled — or jarred chopped garlic in a pinch
- 1-2 cups white wine
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- black pepper & salt to taste
- fresh or dry herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, parsley, cumin, etc.)
- a selection of chopped veggies — it’s nice to use a combo of starchy ones and green ones — good ones to try are brussel sprouts, asparagus, string beans, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cubed butternut squash, baby carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower florets, mushrooms … the sky’s the limit — or whatever your grocery store carries!)
First, wash your chicken and pat dry. Remove any giblets it comes with from inside the bird. If this is an organic chicken, save these nutrient-rich organs for making soup stock. Just stick them in the freezer. (Recipe for soup upcoming in next week’s post.) Now rub the chicken with a little olive oil (or butter) — just a whisper to coat it. Place bird in a large roasting pan. (A big, deep lasagna pan works really well — you need enough room for a lot of vegetables to spread out in a fairly shallow layer so they cook evenly.) Slice the lemon thinly, and lay the slices over the chicken. If you want to get really fancy, you can makes some slits in the skin and insert peeled garlic cloves under the skin.
Now, chop the onion and whichever veggies you want into roughly 1 to 1.5 inch chunks. Alternatively, just rip open your bags of pre-cut vegetables! Scatter them around the chicken. Sprinkle with olive oil — just enough to barely coat. The fat from the chicken will seep into them once it gets cooking. Toss in a selection of dried herbs or fresh ones, diced. If you have herbs growing, it’s nice to put a fresh-picked handful inside the bird. Pour one and a half cups of white wine into the pan, add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle black pepper and salt to taste over everything.
Now for the roasting: I like to start out with a 400 degree oven. I keep the oven at this temperature for just about ten minutes, then lower it to 350 and then for the last half hour or so, increase the temp again to 375. Every oven runs a bit differently, but it usually takes about 1.5 hours to be done. I baste the chicken several times, spooning up the juice from the pan over the bird, and at the same time, stirring the veggies around. If things are getting dry, add more wine. If it looks to you as if the vegetables are getting too brown at any point, just lay a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the pan. This will keep them from getting too dark.
You can cut up the chicken right in the pan and let people help themselves — or be a bit more formal and put the cut chicken on a platter and heap the veggies and savory juices in a big serving bowl. A nice green salad could round out this meal if you want to serve a few more people. A medium size roasting chicken serves five generously with enough meat left over on the bones to make soup. I usually try to do between four and six different kinds of veggies in the pan — you can simply adjust the amount based on how many people you want to feed. Bon Appetit!