by Caroline Carney
The monstrous snow banks have melted, the thick wool sweaters have been relegated to the back of the closet, and people now take to the streets with renewed hope of warmer days ahead. The city is awakening from its long winter slumber.
Sadly, that awakening is a much slower process for the New England dirt – it is still hard, cold, and most inhospitable to tender, young crops. We must wait another month or so for those sweet asparagi, those verdant fiddleheads, lovely ramps, delicate pink radishes, and crisp, refreshing cucumbers.
Don’t let it get your down! There is excitement to be had in the kitchen and the market even has a few “local” vegetables and tasty ingredients that are worth investigating.
Every cook should know how to roast a chicken, and roast it well. If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to try your hand at it with this recipe while it’s still cozy inside and not too hot outside to heat the apartment up with the oven. Roast chicken is also the ideal meal for a small dinner party. It is simple to prepare, can be done virtually in one pan, and even yields a delicious pan-sauce, which is the ultimate impress-your-guest addition. Roast chicken is so easy that the assistant (husband) watched on, useless, without a single thing to chop.
First, select your bird wisely. It’s better to get a small, high quality chicken, than some 5-pound Perdue special. Look for a free-range, preferably organic chicken. Although free-range is a loaded word, that sees little regulation from the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s a good place to start when choosing a chicken. If you have the time, strike up a conversation with the butcher about the chicken’s origins. Those butchers have a wealth of knowledge. Make sure your bird hasn’t been injected with any flavoring. Manufacturers often add salt, which takes away your control over the finished flavor. Your market should still have some local root vegetables. I found some robust looking rutabaga from Maine and parsnips from Vermont. Both are wonderful roasted alongside the chicken. The prunes add an addictive sticky sweetness to the dish.
Make sure to sip a glass of red wine while you’re waiting for the bird to cook and then serve with a fresh, green salad if you’re feeling wistful.
This feast should comfortably serve 4.
Roast Chicken with Local Vegetables
1 3-4 lbs chicken
3 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then into 2-3 sections widthwise
3 parsnips, cut in half lengthwise and then into 2-3 sections widthwise
2 medium-sized rutabaga, cut into thick wedges
1 red onion, cut into 4 thick wedges
handful of prunes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp coriander, toasted until fragrant
½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted until fragrant
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pat the chicken with a dry paper towel.
- Grind the garlic, coriander, fennel seeds, and salt in a mortal and pestle.
- Stir the olive oil and red wine into the seed mixture until well blended.
- Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken breast and slide you hand between the two to create an open cavity.
- Spread about half of the seed and oil mixture over the flesh. Rub the remaining mixture over the skin.
- Slice the lemon in half and place into the chicken’s cavity.
- Place your chicken in a roasting pan (breast side up) and add the vegetables and prunes so they fit snuggly next to the bird. Season the vegetables and prunes with some salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Roast the chicken for ½ hour at the 400°F setting. Then add half of the red wine to the pan and turn the heat down to 350°F.
- Continue to cook for about another 1 ½ hour or until a thermometer reads 160°F or so. You can also remove the bird from the oven and make a little incision in the little nook between the leg and breast. If the juices run clear, that bird is cooked.
10. Remove the bird, vegetables, and prunes to a platter. Let rest while you make your pan sauce.
11. Put the pan over low heat on the stovetop. Use a fork or whisk to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the remaining red wine and reduce to thickness of your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can strain the sauce if you’d like, but it’s delicious as is and looks much more rustic.
12. Slice thick pieces of meat from the breast, remove the legs, and place alongside the vegetables and prunes. Serve with a little sauce drizzled over the meat and the remainder of the sauce on the side.
Caroline Carney is a second year Nutrition Communication student and is also working towards her Dietetic Internship. She loves to go running along the Charles with friends and to cook delicious, nutrition-minded meals with her amazing husband.