Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon

There is something intrinsically satisfying about roasting a chicken. Versatile, economical, forgiving, and consistently delicious: a roast is perfect family dinner fare, and also worthy of casual entertaining. Expecting guests? Roast 2 chickens and double up on the ingredients. Variations abound.  In our case, roast chicken often involves a rub, as minimal as simply salt or more embellished with olive oil, garlic, lemon, mustard. Add an Asian twist with grated ginger, or head to north Africa with coriander and cumin. A favorite preparation is to roast the bird nestled in a pan with seasonal vegetables. As the chicken cooks, the vegetables brown and baste, adding to the flavor to the pan juices.

Roast Chicken and Spring Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon
Serves 4-6

This recipe takes advantage of spring’s new vegetables. Feel free to mix and match with what’s available. I used thick purple spring onions, white carrots and baby turnips. Onions, fennel and potatoes are also a sure thing. For a rustic family-style presentation, return the carved chicken to the skillet in which it roasted, amidst the vegetables and pan juices.

1  3-4 pound whole chicken
Salt
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh tarragon sprigs, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 pound (6-8)  baby turnips, ends trimmed, halved
1/2 pound baby carrots, ends trimmed
6-8 thick red spring onions, ends trimmed, halved crosswise

Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse and pat dry the chicken outside and inside the cavity. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Stir in the tarragon. Rub the 3/4 of the marinade all over the chicken – inside the cavity, outside, and between the skin and breast meat.
Place turnips, carrots and onions in a bowl. Toss with remaining marinade. Dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan. Nestle the chicken, breast-side up, in the middle of the vegetables. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove; using tongs turn chicken over, breast-side down. Return to oven and roast 20 minutes. Remove; turn chicken one more time. Continue roasting until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear when a knife is inserted in the thigh, 20-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes. Carve the chicken and return to the skillet with the vegetables and juices. Serve.

Home Grown Food

DK Salad

I may be exposing my suburban roots, but it thoroughly impresses me when an entire meal can be harvested from a back yard.  Nowadays, there is plenty of talk of local, sustainable food, and happily this concept is growing through local farmers’ markets and CSA’s, movements such as Slow Food, and committed practice by chefs and home cooks alike. Last week, the BlogHer Food Conference offered panel discussions on urban farming, canning, preserving and foraging. NOMA, the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant crowned number one in the world this year, creates its menu from ingredients which are locally foraged. Times are changing and hopeful as we return to our land, our communities and our kitchens.

I do my best to buy locally grown food, grateful I live in a part of the country where we have an abundance. I remain mindful of what and how we eat, aware that this is a learning curve – a process to move through in order to change a pattern of living and eating into a way that feels intuitively correct. Yet, as I pat myself on my back, I cannot help but feel like a self-aggrandized neanderthal when I think of my husband’s family in Denmark. My state of attempted permanent mindfulness is their norm, naturally and reflexively. While I write about it to convey an epiphany, they feel no need to articulate it, because it’s their way of life. Like breathing.

Mushrooms tf

When we lived in Denmark, and now when we return to visit, a frequent outing was to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in the countryside. Each visit culminated in a family dinner based on food harvested from their property. The last meal we shared with them went something like this:

It began with homemade salumi made of venison and duck hunted from the nearby forest.  As we nibbled on the lean slices of salami, my brother-in-law went outside to harvest bucketloads of crayfish from their lake. He returned with a dripping basket teaming with crustaceans. In one arm he cradled giant porcini mushrooms the size of tennis balls, which he had spotted growing by a grove of trees on the way to the dock. In the meantime, after I had rather naively inquired as to whether there was a salad I could help make, my sister-in-law returned from her garden where she went to gather her daily harvest of vegetables. She profusely apologized that she did not have any lettuce, while she heaved her basket on to the table. It toppled to the side, spilling out its contents, a free form cornucopia of heirloom tomatoes, chard, new potatoes, red potatoes, yellow carrots, crab apples, garlic, zucchini, crookneck squash, red onions and grapes. She declared that this was only one day’s worth of a harvest. It should all be eaten, since there would be just as much to harvest tomorrow. So, we got cooking.
Crayfish plate

The porcinis were cleaned, sliced, and dressed with olive oil and salt. I made a salad of colorful heirloom tomatoes, red onion and chard; potatoes were roasted in olive oil and garlic; apples and carrots were sliced and put in lemon water for the children; we sautéed the zucchini and crookneck squash; the crayfish were boiled and cooled; homemade bread was warmed and sliced; the table was laid while we gamely tried to find room for all the plates and food. As we tucked into our meal, my brother-in-law told us to save some space for the pigeon and duck he had braising in the oven that he was eager for us to taste, adding that he had saved the largest porcini mushroom for a cream sauce which would accompany the birds.

This was a delicious, abundant meal created from food hunted or grown on the property. The further beauty of it was that there was no need for a written recipe. Each dish reflected the main ingredient, either cooked or raw, enhanced with salt, pepper, some olive oil, perhaps a little vinegar and lemon or a simple sauce. It was delicious and sating – a feast for a king despite our hosts’ humble means.

I still have so much to learn.

Heirloom Tomato and Chard Salad with Red Onions and Basil

Serves 4-6.

2 pounds assorted baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced or halved, depending on size
2 cups mixed red and green chard leaves, stems removed
2 small red onions, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup purple and green basil leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Arrange tomatoes in the center of a serving platter, alternating colors. Arrange chard leaves around the edge of the platter. Top tomatoes and chard with red onion slices. Garnish with basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Skillet Chicken with Rice and Vegetables

Chicken Rice Vegetables

“This tastes like chicken soup without the soup,” declared my daughter as she tucked into a weeknight dinner of chicken and rice.  It was cool and cloudy outside, an unusual event in Northern California, where any rain in September warrants breaking news on the television.  As many of you know, I am a New England girl at heart.  Even when I was living in Europe for nearly 2 decades, I managed to end up in countries and regions where fog, rain, and cold weather featured prominently in the weather report, and I didn’t mind at all.  I married a Dane whose country prides itself on its dismal weather 9 months of the year.  Autumn weather brings out the best in my mood.  The finicky, blustery, invigorating climate sends me outdoors for cool fresh air and the spray of rain and then back inside for cozy clothes, warm fires and comfort food.  Inclement weather, to me, is like the proverbial other shoe to drop.  It balances out the sunshine and warmth of summer, and shows off the other side of Mother Nature.

So, now that I find myself living in California, otherwise known as the land of eternally blue skies and incessantly bright sunshine, I must seize my fall moments when I can.  This brings me to Chicken with Rice and Vegetables.  Due to the wild and unexpected display of crazy weather and freakish nature last week in Marin County (a.k.a. sprinkles and clouds) I embraced that other shoe, so to speak.  After taking a brisk run outside in the forest, I lit a fire in our fireplace, donned fluffy houseshoes and a fleece pullover, and proceeded to make a cozy one pot dish for a family dinner.  The result was what I would consider a compliment in the comfort food category by my daughter and an apt description of this homey skillet chicken and rice dish.  The other result was the hot flashes I experienced due to overdressing in fleece and fluff for the 10 F.  temperature drop in the air outside.

One Pot Chicken

Chicken with Rice and Vegetables
Mild and comforting, this is food that will please children and adults alike.The results will be more dry like a paella, not a stew.

Serves 4-6

4 large chicken breasts, with skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, cut in 1/4″ slices
2 celery ribs, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 poblano pepper, or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in 1/2″ pieces
2 vine ripe tomatoes, halved, stem and seeds removed, cut in chunks
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 turkish bay leaf
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup shelled peas or frozen peas
Thyme sprigs for garnish

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken skin-side down.  Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Turn and cook 2 more minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside on plate.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet.  Add onion and sauté until tender over medium heat, 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté one minute.  Add carrots, celery, pepper.  Sauté until colors brighten and vegetables begin to soften slightly, 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Add rice and cook, stirring, one minute.  Add stock.  Return chicken to pot and arrange in one layer over rice and vegetables.  Cover, reduce to simmer, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 12-15 minutes.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Place on plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add peas to rice, cover and continue to cook until rice is tender, approximately 5-8 more minutes.  Add additional salt and pepper, to taste.  Fluff rice and vegetables with a fork and return chicken to skillet.  Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Grilled Ratatouille

Grilled Salad?  You bet. This version of ratatouille is perfect in the summer when the season is lobbing a kaleidescope of Provençal vegetables our way. Instead of simmering eggplant, squash, onions and peppers with tomatoes on the stove in the traditional Niçoise fashion, try grilling all of them on the barbeque.  Bright, colorful, and pleasantly charred, this salad is a healthy, summery side dish or salad.  Serve as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish or as a smoky, crunchy stand-alone salad with crusty pain paysan. Alternatively, head further south in the Mediterranean for inspiration: Add feta cheese and kalamata olives to the grilled vegetables for a twist on Greek salad.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad
Serves 6 as a side dish

2-3 bamboo skewers

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large, firm eggplant/aubergine, cut horizontally in 1/2″ thick slices
2 large red onions, cut horizontally in 1/2″ thick slices
2 thin zucchini/courgettes, halved lengthwise
2 thin yellow squash, halved lengthwise
2 red peppers, halved, seeded, stems removed
1 poblano pepper, halved, seeded, stem removed

Extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves minced
1 small bunch Italian parsley leaves, stems removed, chopped
1 small bunch basil leaves, ripped in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak skewers 30 minutes before grilling.  Preheat grill or oven. Thread tomatoes on skewers.  Arrange all the vegetables and tomato skewers on a large baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat thoroughly.  Sprinkle with salt.  Grill vegetables on barbeque until nicely browned and just cooked through. (Or grill in one layer in oven, turning once.)

Allow vegetables to cool slightly. Remove tomatoes from skewers and place in large bowl. Cut eggplant, onions, zucchini, squash and peppers in 1″ pieces. Add to bowl with tomatoes.  Toss vegetables with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with extra parsley and basil leaves.