28 September 2012
Roast chicken; mashed potatoes
It's fall. Okay, it's technically fall. That doesn't mean much here in NorCal--hey, we didn't really have a summer either!--so it's no surprise that the weather is still constantly 75F and sunny, 75F and sunny, 75F and sunny.
BORING. I want rain and clouds and wind! I certainly want to start wearing jackets and scarves and inhaling cool, crisp air and eating hot and homey fall foods. Well, I can at least have that last one.
So this week we made roasted chicken with thyme butter and garlic mashed potatoes, for one of the most classic fall dinners ever.
Since I am the only meat-eater in the house, we decided not to roast an entire chicken. Instead, we went to the butcher counter and got a bone-in and skin-on breast. This worked out admirably, especially considering our current lack of freezer space for leftover storage. You can use this same method to roast an entire chicken; just be sure to adjust the roasting time up.
Roast chicken with thyme butter and cherry tomatoes
bone-in skin-on chicken
Preheat your oven to 400F.
While the oven is heating, prep your chicken. Wash it, pat it dry with a paper towel, and trim off any unnecessary pieces. John was prepping our chicken, so he chopped off a bit of attached ribcage (too thin; would have burnt) and some extra fat. We saved the trimmings to make stock later, and you should too.
Strip a bunch of fresh thyme leaves off their stems. Use a fork to mix them with a chunk of softened butter. Then use your fingers to butter your chicken both under and over the skin. Really get in there and grease it up. If you want to, you can put a few branches of fresh thyme in the pan or under the skin too. Salt and pepper your chicken on both sides as well.
Roast in a baking dish of your choice, basting occasionally.
We weren't sure how long to roast our chicken because it wasn't an entire bird. So instead of doing the intelligent thing and looking up how many minutes a bird generally cooks per pound, we just stuck it in the oven and kept an eye on it. It took about 45 minutes to cook completely, with golden brown skin and clear juices when tested with a knife.
In the last ten minutes or so of cooking, add as many cherry tomatoes as you like to the roasting pan. Fifteen or twenty per person is a reasonable amount; more is probably better. They'll collapse a bit into the rendered chicken fat and become a delicious acidic mess.
When your chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for at least a good five to ten minutes before carving. This lets the juices absorb back into the meat, so the finished product isn't dry.
Be sure to save the bones for stock-making.
Garlic mashed potatoes
Put a big pot of water on to boil while you scrub, peel, and chunk as many potatoes as you want to eat. When the water comes to a boil, add your potatoes. Give it a minute to boil again before you lid the pan, turn down the heat, and simmer. Let cook until the potatoes are cooked through. This took about forty minutes for us.
In the last fifteen minutes or so of potato cooking, warm some olive oil or butter in a small pan. Add a bunch of smashed, peeled garlic cloves. Cook very slowly over the lowest heat, letting the garlic soften and steep in the oil.
When your potatoes are done, drain them well. Add the olive oil and garlic mixture to the potatoes, along with salt and pepper to taste and a dash of milk. Mash everything together to your liking.
To serve, deposit a whack of mashed potatoes on your plate, and a piece of chicken on the side. Cover the potatoes with a couple spoonfuls of roasted tomatoes. Have some salad on the side. Voila!
What classic fall dinners are you eating?