Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

It all started with a trip to Haskell’s Wine & Spirits in Burnsville. I needed to buy a corkscrew for a gift, but I felt a little guilty for not buying a bottle of wine. My thinking is that if you want to have local wine shops you need to buy wine from local wine shops, so I started browsing and chose an unassuming little Cotes-du-Rhone. For whatever reason that made think of roasted chicken, and off we went! It’s amazing how many resources you can find online for roasted chicken, and I can’t imagine you’d go wrong with any of them. After quite a bit of really fun research, I centered on recipes by Thomas Keller, the chef from The French Laundry in Napa Valley. I found a post on Adam Keller’s “The Amateur Gourmet” blog which detailed his experiences, and that’s the recipe upon which I based my meal.

Some interesting tips that I learned, but didn’t quite have time to implement:

  • Let the chicken stand, uncovered, in the refrigerator for up to two days. This lets the bird dry out sufficiently to give you a nice crispy skin.
  • Let the bird stand on the counter for around two hours prior to cooking. This will allow it to come to room temperature and give you more even roasting.

I did let the bird come to room temp, but I found out about the drying time too late to give it a try this time. I’ll definitely give that a go next time so that I can find out how it works. I also bought bone-in skin-on thighs and drumsticks for my roasting, rather than trussing a whole bird. We like the rich flavor of the dark meat, so this is what we’d normally do. I’ve roasted an intact bird in the past and enjoyed it greatly, but if I’m not planning to make a grand presentation then this is my preferred method.

This was a simple recipe, but I really don’t see any need to make it complicated. The pieces are so succulent and juicy, and they paired perfectly with the Cotes-du-Rhone which inspired the whole meal. Cath and I oohed and ahhed our way through the meal, and our girls seemed quite pleased as well. Another bonus: we found out we enjoyed rutabagas! I’ve had them before in pasties in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, but this was possibly the first time we’ve made them in our kitchen. They tasted great, and I’m sure we’ll find a way to work them into our cuisine on a regular basis.

Ingredients

  • 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 4 bone-in skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rutabagas
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 8 small red-skinned potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 475 F.

Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Cut off both ends of the rutabagas. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the skin, working from top to bottom and removing any tough outer layers. Cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Peel carrots, and cut into two-inch pieces. Cut red potatoes into chunks about 1-1/2 to 2 inches.

Combine all the vegetables and the roughly chopped garlic cloves and thyme sprig in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in a large cast-iron skillet or a roasting pan.

Rub the remaining oil over the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Layer the vegetables evenly on the bottom of the roasting pan, and then layer the ckicken on top.

Cut the butter into small pieces and place one on each piece of chicken.

Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 F in the meatiest portions of the bird and the juices run clear. If necessary, return the bird to the oven for more roasting; check it every 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Just before serving, set the pan of vegetables over medium heat and reheat the vegetables, turning them and glaazing them with the pan juices.

Arrange the pieces of chicken on a serving platter along with the vegetables and serve.

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Fire-Roasted Red Peppers

Over the years we’ve enjoyed a number of meals which have called for bottled red peppers.  They taste terrific, but it has always seemed a bit crazy to pay the sort of prices they ask at the grocery store for those tiny little bottles.  We decided we should learn how to roast them ourselves, just to save a little cash.  Unknowingly, we also introduced ourselves to a world of heightened flavor, and with very little effort.Most recipes for roasted red peppers call for the use of the broiler flame in the oven, and that’s a wonderful, easy way to go.  I’ve found that I love bigger flavors, and the best way I’ve found to take the level of flavor through roof is by roasting my peppers on the grill instead.  It infuses the flesh of the pepper with a smoky nuance which is difficult to surpass.

Many cooks will leave the pepper whole while roasting, but in the interest of simplicity I like to prepare it a bit first.  I core and seed the pepper, and then flatten it with my hand.  In that way I can expose the maximum amount of skin to the open flame, and roast the pepper most efficiently.

I do appreciate recipes and techniques which are simplified to reduce manual effort, but where my grill is involved I’m generally a babysitter.  I’ve been on the receiving end of far too many overcooked meals from distracted grillers who don’t pay attention to what’s happening out there on the fire.  As a result, I’m sensitive to the thought of “treating” someone else to the same.  I turn up the flame on these peppers, but then I stand guard, ready to turn them every five minutes or so to ensure they’re done evenly, and perfectly.

Now, with respect to the amount of attention I pay to these peppers on the grill, I cannot escape the irony of the fact that they need to be completely charred before they are done.  I turn them again and again, always leaving the skin side to the flame.  They really shouldn’t be hurried, and it usually takes about fifteen minutes to render them completely black.  I’ve learned from experience that this is the single most important aspect of roasting peppers successfully; let them char until you look at them and wonder why you just wasted such a beautiful thing.  If you stop short of that point, the skin isn’t going to loosen and you’ll end up fighting the darned thing.  Roast it until it’s black.

As I stand and wait, it strikes me how the smoky haze rising from the grill during this process is rich with the deep, slightly musky scent of juices as they splatter and steam on the flames.  Standing over the grill in the heart of winter, as I did today, is difficult, but that heavenly scent is often reward enough.

When  the skins are completely charred the peppers are ready to be taken from the fire.  I carefully remove them with grilling tongs, and place them in a heatproof container with a sealable top.  If no such container is available, aluminum foil will definitely work, as long as you pinch and seal the edges.  Simply close the container, and perform the second most important step in the process: walk away!  Leave the sealed container alone for at least twenty minutes, as this is when the internal heat of the pepper will turn its juices into steam, loosening the skin so that it can be removed.  As a side benefit, the sugars of the raw pepper will be caramelized.  The sharp tanginess of the raw pepper will be converted into the rich, sweet flavors of the finished product.

After twenty minutes have passed, remove the peppers and lay them flat on your cutting board with the charred skin facing upward.  The flesh will likely still be hot, so be careful not to burn your fingers.  Remove the skin by rubbing it along and off the flesh.  If you’re gentle and careful, you should have a large square of warm, velvety soft pepper with some amount of charred bits clinging to the edges.  Some cooks rinse the flesh at this point, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  The aroma and the texture are intoxicating to my senses, and I don’t care to lose any of that for the sake of some perceived cleanliness.

My final step is to cut the peppers into thin strips for serving.  I drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over them, and when they’ve cooled I store them in the refrigerator in a glass jar.  In the end I’ve saved a little cash over the purchase price of bottled peppers, but the real benefit is the incredible infusion of smoky flavor and the tactile pleasure of creating a gourmet treat for the senses.