A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.
… In which I improve my roasting skills and create a Sunday meal that will give us inspired ingredients all week.
This week’s Dark Days challenge is to make a one-pot meal – for me, another one-pot meal since this has been a recent theme around here. Soups and stews, especially during the dark days, abound in our household. It’s not unusual to have made three or four in any given week. However, what we’ve been missing since the holidays is the traditional Sunday roast: meat or poultry leisurely prepared on the weekend for a communal feast, and then divvied up for small suppers all week long. A beautiful chicken from Griggstown Quail Farm would fill the bill, roasted with local organic root vegetables infused with Terhune Orchards cider.
I’ve prepared this dish in past years, several times, and with only semi-satisfying results, so this gave me another chance for improvement. I actually didn’t have a finite plan when I started. However, while I was driving to Griggstown along snow-covered roads hugging the canal, and listening to NPR’s “A Splendid Table” on the radio, Lynne Rosetto Kaspar interviewed Molly Stevens about her new cookbook on roasting, and I said, “Ah ha!” Stevens described a daylong salt-curing process for roasting chicken, and I realized that this might be the trick that would keep my chicken from being braised or poached in the presence of so much liquid. I wanted a crisp-skinned, flavorful bird sitting atop a rich medley of roots, and that’s what we got.
The “trick” was to rub salt all over the bird (a scant teaspoon per pound) and let it air-dry in the refrigerator for a day. The bird sweats initially, but then absorbs the salt to infuse the meat. This eventually will allow the skin to crisp around a moist interior. I also started cooking the bird in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes before adding the cut-up veggies and the cider. The result was a chicken with crispy skin and succulent meat. The local organic vegetables – carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, yellow turnip, rutabaga and onion – were accompanied by a Granny Smith apple and cider, and a sprinkling of dried winter savory and thyme from our CSA. The only non-local ingredient was the salt. This went from one pan to one communal platter to one plate each.
Writing this up after the fact, I am in the midst of experiencing the most aromatic chicken stock made of the bones and meat juice, and separately a vegetable broth from the peelings. We also have plenty of other “leftovers” from our lovely and generous Sunday Roast. This is a generous one-pot meal that keeps on giving, perfect for the Dark Days.
Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables and Cider
1 3½-4 lb chicken
2½ tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter (I used organic ghee)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cubed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium or 2 small parsnips, peeled and sliced or cubed
1 yellow turnip, peeled and cubed
1 very small rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 tsp dried winter savory or thyme or a combination
1 c cider
1 small handful chard or kale leaves
The day before you plan on roasting the chicken, clean and dry it and rub salt all over. Place on a rack in a pan in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours if you do this in the morning).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the chicken with oil or butter and place in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes.
Add the apple and vegetables to the roasting pan, sprinkle the chicken and vegetables with the herbs and pour the cider on top of the vegetables. Roast for an hour or until the thigh juices run clear. Remove the chicken and vegetables and let them sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add the green to the liquid in the pan and wilt them, arranging the greens with the root vegetables.