Dinner at Home
Roast chicken to warm the soul
Warm your winter-weary soul with roast chicken, veggies
The No. 1 trick to roasting chicken: Heat. For perfectly golden skin, turn on the convection setting on the oven, or fully heat the oven to 400 degrees. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Then, for a wonderful aroma and subtle flavor, tuck some paper-thin slices of fresh lemon between the skin and flesh and add a handful of cilantro to the cavity.
Since the chicken takes a long time in the oven, I figure I have time to roast vegetables too. I like to add a mixture directly to the roasting pan with the bird. This way the veggies benefit from the luscious pan juices; just be sure to stir them several times while they cook.
Fresh leeks and aromatic fresh fennel best my standard potato and carrot melange. The sweet leeks and crunchy fennel will caramelize and intensify in flavor with the long roasting time.
To accompany the rich roasted chicken and vegetables, I offer plain broccoli florets, gently blanched or steamed to bright green. Pass sliced whole-grain baguette to mop up every bit of the lemony chicken flavor.
As long as the oven is going, bake a batch of chocolate cherry peanut butter oatmeal cookies. These have it all going on: oats, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate.
Lemony roast chicken with caramelized fennel
Prep: 30 minutes
Brine: Several hours
Cook: 1 1/2 hours
¼ cup each: salt, sugar
1 whole roasting chicken, about 5 pounds, giblets and neck removed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks with most of the green, split lengthwise, well rinsed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large or 3 small fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, bulbs chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small thin-skinned lemons, very thinly sliced, seeded
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon each: salt, dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Dissolve 1/4 cup each salt and sugar in 2 quarts of warm water in a large bowl or pot. Add the chicken and additional cool water if necessary to completely submerge the chicken. Refrigerate covered at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Drain; rinse chicken; pat dry.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pour 3 tablespoons oil into a large roasting pan. Add leeks and fennel; mix well to coat with the oil.
3. Use your hands to gently loosen the skin away from the flesh of the chicken. Slip the lemon slices under the skin on the back and front of the chicken. Tuck the cilantro into the chicken cavity. Sprinkle the salt, oregano and pepper on all sides of the chicken. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pan.
4. Roast the chicken, stirring the vegetables around in the pan juices every 20 minutes or so, until the chicken is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should register about 165 degrees.
5. Gently transfer the chicken to a cutting board; tent with foil. Let rest, 10 minutes. Meanwhile, skim and discard most of the fat from pan juices. Transfer pan juices and vegetables to a serving bowl; season with salt, if needed.
6. Carve the chicken into serving portions. Serve each with a generous spoonful of the vegetables.
Per serving: 568 calories, 34 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 158 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 51 g protein, 828 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.
Chocolate cherry peanut butter oatmeal cookies
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Makes: about 90 cookies
Note: These cookies are made without flour. For the best crunch, be sure to use old-fashioned rolled oats, not the finer-textured quick-cooking varieties. I like natural peanut butter for its deep peanut flavor. Store the cookies in a covered container up to several days or freeze up to 2 months.
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup extra-crunchy natural peanut butter, at room temperature
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup salted, toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), roasted hulled sunflower seeds or roasted peanuts
½ cup dried cherries (chopped if large), dried currants or small dark raisins
8 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate bars, roughly broken into 1/4-inch pieces
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in baking soda and vanilla. Beat in peanut butter until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon to stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, cherries and chocolate pieces.
2. Use a teaspoon to make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake until set and bottoms are slightly golden, about 12 minutes.
3. Cool cookies on pan, 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can reuse the paper-lined baking sheets to bake the remaining cookies.)
Per serving: 67 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 34 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.