Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Dinner

It's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good. A weather front passed through our area yesterday giving us two go-rounds of hail, heavy rains, high winds and unseasonably cool temperatures. We went from an afternoon high of 85 one day to an afternoon high of 58 the next.

While this is bad news for my jalapeƱo pepper plants in the garden, who do not appreciate ice or cooler temperatures, this is great news for my dinner plans this evening, which included trying out a pot roast chicken and vegetables recipe.

A baked chicken for Sunday Dinner is as traditional as it gets, it just doesn't make that much sense when you are already wondering where you put last year's unused bottle of sun screen and do you need to wash the beach towels before you use them this year. But on the heels of a cold front, with as close to a "chill" as you can expect in Texas in late April in the air? Pot roast chicken is just the ticket. Schizophrenic weather like this calls for some versatility.

I got this recipe off the Serious Eats website. It is adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall. Don't you like the name? He really sounds like somebody who should know from pot roasted chicken, yes?

So far I have to say either Hugh's vegetables run smaller than mine do or he has a much larger pot to use for this recipe. I pulled out my largest covered roasting pan (after realizing when I had the bird and only half the cut up veggies filling my dutch oven to overflowing that IT wouldn't work). When I hit the 50 minute mark where I am supposed to give the veggies a good stir and baste the bird with the fat off the top of the juices? I could barely get to the juice and many of the vegetables were sitting well above the liquid.

So I compromised a bit. I added some chicken stock to bring the level of the liquid up for finishing off the vegetables, and I threw a bit of butter on the bird to help it brown as it finishes out the stint in the oven with the pan uncovered.

The stuff looked gorgeous uncooked. I can only hope it will taste and look that great at the end of this road, in about another half hour. I plan on serving the meat and vegetables with a bit of good chewy multigrain bread and a nice glass of white wine.

Doesn't get much easier or much better than that. Here's the recipe - my notes on finishing up will follow:

Pot-Roast Chicken and Vegetables
- serves 4 to 5 -
Adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

1 chicken, weighing 4 to 6 pounds
2 onions
3 large carrots
3 leeks
3 potatoes
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon soft butter
A glass of white wine
A glass of water
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the chicken in a large casserole, a clay pot, or a deep roasting pan with a lid. Slice the onions and cut all the other vegetables into chunks. Arrange the vegetables and herbs around the bird. Rub the butter over the breast of the bird and pour over the wine and water, then season well with the salt and some pepper.

2. Place the lid on the dish and put it in a preheated 375°F oven. Remove the lid after about 50 minutes and give the vegetables a good stir. Baste the chicken with the fat on top of the juices in the dish. Leave the lid off and return to the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the breast is nicely browned and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer.

3. To serve, transfer the chicken to a large warmed plate and carve it up fairly chunkily. Spoon vegetables from the roasting pot and plenty of buttery juices onto each plate beside the meat.

Note: If using a stewing chicken, turn the oven down to 300°F after the first half an hour, then cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours without removing the lid. Turn the bird over on its back halfway through cooking and give the vegetables a good stir at the same time.

I didn't have three carrots but I did have some kohlrabi from my CSA basket yet to use up, so I added those to the mix. Most of the recipes I saw for kohlrabi were for braising them, so I figure this pot roasting will treat them well. In addition to bay leaves out in my herb plantings, I also have some sage, thyme-oregano, and garden variety thyme, so I grabbed a bit of each and added them in. I like herbs in my chicken and vegetables, and considering the amounts called for in this recipe filled the largest covered roaster I've got? It looked to me as though the flavors would have plenty of room to play nicely.

OK - it is time, according to the recipe and the oven buzzer, to serve. However, the chicken is not quite all the way done and the vegetables are not nearly ready to eat. I took the chicken out, covered it with foil and placed it in the cooling oven to finish off. I placed the vegetables on a burner and will bring this to a low boil until the vegetables finish off and the liquid in the pan is reduced. I have some fabulous Irish butter to add in at the last for a finishing touch, and then I will carve the rested bird with a side of buttered veggies and some good bread.

Finally: I did not take into account (and neither does the recipe) the extra time it takes to roast a bird on the heavier end of the scale. If you try this recipe, please note you will need to adjust/lengthen baking times for a 6 pound bird. I ended up putting the chicken back into a very hot oven for 15 minutes to finish it up but was rewarded with incredibly delicious browned crisped skin for that extra time in the heat.

My husband is being lovingly patient with our delayed dinner. It smells great here and we have nowhere to rush off to, so we will have a very sophisticated late dinner for just the two of us with great leftovers to reheat next week. I will try to get a photo of the finished product if I can stand to wait 1 minute longer than necessary to dig in! Bon Appetite!

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