Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Triumphant Return that Tastes like Chicken

2014 has been an amazing year for this blogger - I got married, traveled to two new countries and several new states, launched a huge software project at work, and finished a second year of adjunct teaching at UNC-C. Needless to say, that's left very little room for writing here, despite no slow down in the amount of cooking I've done.

Now that life has quieted down, I'm back at the wheel and hope to add a bunch of new recipes in the coming weeks and months. I'm going to start with one that I've made a couple times recently, a roasted chicken with local seasonal herbs. The great thing about this is that you can size up the recipe for turkey or turkey breast which I've done twice with great success. It's also a pretty dish that has great leftovers potential for both stock (suggested recipe below) and sandwiches. The chicken, as always, came from Windy Hill, the herbs from Coto Farms who always has an amazing selection throughout the year, and the carrots, beets and turnips are from my friends at the Lomax Incubator. 

A note about herbs: yes, you can use dried herbs and if you do, I suggest getting high quality ones from an actual spice shop. The dried herbs you get in sets from a Bed, Bath and Beyond-type place are probably old and not awesome. However, herbs are really easily grown in greenhouses or just in people's homes so you can usually find fresh herbs all year round locally. Fresh herbs taste and look better in a recipe and really add an element of freshness, especially in the winter when our food tends to have less bold flavors.

Easy Roast Chicken (LPO)
2-3 large carrots
2-3 turnips
2-3 beets 

1 onion
1 whole head of garlic
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 whole lemon, cut in half
1 whole chicken
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper as necessary

  1. Line a dutch oven with olive oil. Cut the vegetables in 1 inch pieces and line the dutch oven with them. Chop about 1 tablespoon of each herb and set aside.
  2. Stuff the chicken with the whole lemon, several cloves of garlic, and the rest of the herbs (unchopped is best, use the whole stem and leaves).
  3. Soften a couple tablespoons of better in the microwave then mix that with the chopped herbs. You can either rub these over the chicken's skin or, if you're daring, tuck them under the chicken skin (this is ideal, it really keeps the bird moist later).
  4. Put the chicken in the pan over top of the veggies. Drizzle some olive oil over the whole bird and tie the wings together with string (optional but this helps it cook more evenly).
  5. Bake uncovered at 400 for 15 minutes to get a nice glaze on the skin and then turn the oven down to 350 and cook the rest of the way (the inside temp of the bird needs to be 165 or, if you don't have a meat thermometer, cut one of the legs away some and check for a minimal amount of pink). Cook time really varies based on the size and fat-iness of your bird but this could take up to 2 hours. A good local bird like I had from Windy Hill will only take about an hour to an hour and a half but a fattier bird from the grocery store could take two.
Looks professional, was super simple!

To make chicken stock later:
  1. Keep the chicken and any leftover vegetables (though you might want to remove the beets because they'll turn your stock red) in the dutch oven or other large soup pot.
  2. Fill with water until it's covering most of the bird or 1 inch below the rim of the pot, whichever is lower.
  3. Add salt, pepper and chopped celery (optional)
  4. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Once it's boiled for a minute or two, reduce heat and simmer for up to an hour. Then you can remove the chicken, leaving any meat you still have around, and voila, chicken stock for soups or cooking later!