Reflection, Gratitude, Peace.
Holidays are about family. This festive month is only halfway finished, and it’s already been jammed with family events – both expected and unexpected. My trip to Denmark was a whirlwind, packed with working commitments, great food and sites I can’t wait to share with you. When there was an opening in my busy schedule I saw old friends and my husband’s family – an early gift that made my trip even more special for which I am very grateful. Upon my return to the US, I hardly had time to empty my suitcase before packing it again – this time for an unexpected trip to visit my ailing father – and to say good bye. Sad and difficult, it was also bittersweet – a blessing to have a few days with my father and a gift to see my far flung brothers and my father’s family at once, to sit together and reflect, to remember and to laugh, to console and to cry.
I arrived home yesterday and as far as I know, no further travels are required (please). This chicken and farro bowl is what I made for our dinner last night. You might not call it festive, but you can certainly call it soulful and restorative – qualities that were not only perfect for my mood, but grounding and comforting as family food can be. It has several steps, not complicated but reassuring and gently mindful, offering solace, purpose and sustenance. And as timing would have it, it’s also healthy and light, which provides a welcome respite during the excessive holiday season. Peace.
Chicken Farro & Veggie Bowl
Roasting a whole chicken with the vegetables in one pan allows the vegetables to cook in the pan juices which are then spooned over the chicken and farro before serving.
1 (3 to 4 pound) chicken
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves plus 1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 small carrots, halved lengthwise
1 large onion, cut in 1/2-inch wedges
1 large fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 small romesco cauliflower, cut in bite-size florets
Leaves of 2 thyme sprigs
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups farro
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
Heat the oven to 400°F. Rub the chicken all over with oil. Generously season with salt and pepper including inside the cavity. Rub 2 minced garlic cloves inside the cavity and between the skin and breast meat. Place in a baking dish or large cast iron skillet, breast side up. Roast 20 minutes.
Place the carrots, onion, fennel, and cauliflower in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Remove the skillet from the oven. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken, gently raising the chicken to spread underneath if needed. Return to the oven and roast until chicken is thoroughly cooked, 45 to 55 minutes depending on size of chicken. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes before carving into serving pieces. (If you find the vegetables a little undone at this point, return the skillet with vegetables to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes while the chicken rests).
While the chicken is roasting, prepare the farro. Bring the farro and stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 minced garlic clove, the soy sauce, sriracha and salt to taste. Add the spinach and stir to wilt. Cover until serving.
To serve, spoon farro into a wide bowl or deep dish. Top with chicken pieces and roasted vegetables. Spoon pan juices over and serve immediately with extra hot sauce if desired.