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There are times you only want some chicken and vegetables. Ask Ina Garten. This is for that day. Mid-December and a few too many goodies coming up next weekend, right? There are lots of things that are faster to cook than a whole roast chicken, but few that are tastier and more satisfying.

If you’ve never roasted a whole chicken, here’s your opportunity. It’s hard (not):  put it in the oven and close the oven door is about it.

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Dave’s been smoking salmon. I’ve been decorating them to take to parties. I’m trying to avoid too many cookies.  You?

There are a plethora of recipes and many ways, temperatures, and accompaniments for your little bird. I say little because I like a small, young chicken (12 weeks and 3-4 pounds), but you can choose a big old roasting (I’d call it stewing) hen if you really want one. I find the larger birds doughy, strongly-flavored, and–of course–slow to roast.  My choice would be to roast two smaller sweet, tender, and mild chickens if you need more servings. Famous roast chicken recipes:

But if you want a simple, luscious dinner that you can throw in the oven and enjoy your guests in the meantime or grab leftovers from the next day, try my version with an Oregon Pinot Noir or an inexpensive French red Burgundy.  Make some chicken stock after you’re done.  Then there’s chicken soup on the way fast the next time a cold hits. (Freeze your broth if need be.)

My mom always said, “I like the breast and all the rest” when you asked her what piece she’d like.  But I like to say:

CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES

Serves 4.  Doubles easily.    “Elevator” Directions down below recipe.

This chicken is totally forgiving. If I have no fresh thyme, a little dry will work — or none at all. A quartered small onion might be as tasty as the lemon tucked into the cavity.  Have a jar of purchased pesto? It could serve in place of the homemade sauce. You can use other vegetables, such as just carrots and onions, or all Brussels Sprouts or only potatoes, if those are what you have. My tasty chicken recipe was inspired by Tyler Florence, one of my very favorite chefs. Listen to his podcasts; they’re great while you’re on the treadmill!

Chicken:

  • 1 small, young chicken (3 pounds or so)
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters (grate its rind first for the vegetables–see below: Vegetables)
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • Sprig fresh thyme

Vegetables:

  • 1 pound each small potatoes (1-2 inches), cut in half if 2 inches and Brussels sprouts (trimmed, outer leaves removed, cut in half if large)
  • 2 large onions, peeled, trimmed, and cut into eighths
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • Grated rind of one lemon

Sauce: (Can sub a cup or more of purchased pesto)  You’ll use half for roasting the chicken and half at the table with red wine vinegar added.

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 5 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Red wine vinegar to taste–added after the sauce is made

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place chicken in a large, heavy, lightly-greased roasting pan. (A rimmed baking sheet will also work.) Sprinkle the inside with a little salt and pepper; stuff with lemon and thyme. Tie legs together with kitchen string; tuck wings under the bird.* Surround the chicken evenly with the vegetables (potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and onions) and drizzle the vegetables only with about 3 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/8 teaspoon red pepper, and lemon rind. Toss well to evenly coat.

Make sauce (see below) and slowly pour half of it evenly over the chicken. Cover the chicken with greased or sprayed foil. Place pan in preheated oven and roast everything for about an hour.  Meanwhile, pour remaining sauce into a small pitcher, add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, stir and taste. Adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar if you like. Set aside.

After an hour, remove foil ,and continue cooking until the chicken is done, an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F, and vegetables are very tender and crispy–perhaps another 30 minutes at altitude. (Less at sea level.)  Let chicken rest 5 minutes, carve, and serve hot with vegetables. Pass the reserved sauce at the table.

TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Place all ingredients except red wine vinegar in food processor and pulse several times until well-blended. No food processor?  Chop the herbs as finely as possible, place in a bowl with the salt and pepper and mix well. Whisk in the oil slowly. Taste and adjust seasonings. You’ll use half on the chicken while it cooks. The other half, with a little red wine vinegar added to taste, will be served at the table as a sauce for both the chicken and vegetables.

*If you don’t want to do this, as some people don’t, skip it. I like how it makes the chicken look.

Elevator Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the chicken in a roaster and stuff with lemon and thyme; tie legs and tuck under wings. Surround the chicken with a pound each of small potatoes and trimmed Brussels sprouts, along with 2 large onions cut into eighths. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, fresh red pepper, and lemon rind. Pour half of herb sauce or jarred pesto over chicken. Cover with greased foil and roast for an hour. Remove foil and roast until instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F and vegetables are tender and crispy. Serve hot with remaining sauce (add a little red wine vinegar to it) at table.

{printable recipe}

USDA info on colors in cooked poultry:

13. What causes dark bones in cooked poultry?
Darkening of bones and meat around the bones occurs primarily in young (6-8 weeks) broiler-fryer chickens. Since the bones have not calcified or hardened completely, pigment from the bone marrow seeps through the bones and into the surrounding area. Freezing can also contribute to this darkening. This is an aesthetic issue and not a safety one. The meat is safe to eat when all parts have reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

14. What color is safely cooked poultry?
Safely cooked poultry can vary in color from white to pink to tan. For safety when cooking poultry, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. For a whole chicken or turkey, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All the meat—including any that remains pink—is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

15. Why is some cooked poultry pink?
Chemical changes occur during cooking. Oven gases in a heated gas or electric oven react chemically with hemoglobin in the meat tissues to give it a pink tinge. Often meat of younger birds shows the most pink because their thinner skins permit oven gases to reach the flesh. Older animals have a fat layer under their skin, giving the flesh added protection from the gases. Older poultry may be pink in spots where fat is absent from the skin. Also, nitrates and nitrites, which are often used as preservatives or may occur naturally in the feed or water supply used, can cause a pink color.

Read more about it here.

If you’ve read the blog through the summer and fall, you’ll have seen a photo or two of the twin fawns in our neighborhood. Here they are last week grown big and strong–just outside out back door. Their mom had just passed in front of them.    below:

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Open the oven and enjoy life,

Alyce

P.S. I don’t decorate much, but it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house:

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