Oven-roasted chicken & vegetables dinner

So it’s Fall and a great time to turn on the oven and cook a meal there. Warmth and wonderful aromas, both.

When you want something other than a whole roast chicken, and want to amp up the flavor, choose chicken thighs and go strong on spices, including cumin, paprika, cayenne, thyme and perhaps za’atar and/or sumac.

Here’s a guide on how to proceed:

Marinate chicken thighs in Greek yogurt, to which you have added juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 t turmeric, S&P and cayenne. Leave out for 1/2 hour or refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temp before cooking, or at least 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put chicken thighs into roasting pan skin side up, wiping off some of the marinade, if desired. Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne and roast for 45 minutes or so, turning after half an hour or more; baste occasionally if desired.

Prepare potatoes by scrubbing, cutting into large chunks, drizzling and rubbing with olive oil, S&P. Put into a metal baking dish with a few garlic cloves, peeled, and sprigs of thyme, or rub dried thyme with your fingers, sprinkling into potato baking dish. Put potatoes with one cut side down. Add a splash of water, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove cover, and if you like, turn potatoes with tongs to place down on another cut surface. Continue roasting for another 20 minutes. Then remove and let sit. Serve warm or room temp.

Roasted vegetables: Cut up fennel and red onion into large-ish chunks and place in roasting pan with oil, S&P, fennel seeds, cumin, then pitted olives at end. Maybe add sumac, or use za’atar instead of all other spices. Roast uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally especially near end of time. Add olives about 5 minutes before removing from oven. IMG_5388

 

 

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Summer lentil salad extravaganza

When you find yourself with lovely local lettuce in early summer, and perhaps some leftover grilled chicken, cook up some Puy lentils and assemble a main course salad, great for a crowd. Pomegranate molasses adds a new flavor element to sherry vinaigrette brightened with lemon zest and juice.

Ingredients:
Stewed puy lentils, chilled
Chicken or vegetable stock for cooking lentils
Sherry shallot vinaigrette with shallots macerated in apple cider vinegar, lemon zest & juice, walnut & olive oil, sugar and pomegranate molasses
Leftover chicken, sliced thick or hard boiled eggs or boiled chilled shrimp (omit cheese)
Canned artichoke hearts and bottled roasted peppers, drained and rinsed.
Toasted walnuts (1 c), broken up when cool.
Little turnips, carrots sliced on mandoline
fresh herbs, minced — parsley and chives, at a minimum

Directions:

Cook lentils: Sauté diced carrots, celery, shallot in large saucepan. Add 1 t cumin, crumbled, ground pepper, and less than 1 t dried thyme, crumbled. When done, stir in chopped garlic and cook for one minute.
Stir in 1-1/2 c puy lentils, picked over and rinsed. Turn up heat and add stock to more than cover. Bring to a simmer and cook at least partially covered 20-30 minutes until barely tender — don’t let get mushy. Drain and chill.
Toast 1 c. walnuts in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then break up a bit.
Heat olive oil in small sauce pan, add couple garlic cloves cut in half and cook for a couple minutes until slightly browned and aromatic. Remove from heat and let sit.
Drain and rinse artichoke hearts; put on towel and blot dry. Put in bowl and pour garlic oil over them, adding more oil as needed.
Make vinaigrette: minced shallot and apple cider vinegar to macerate 15+ minutes. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, dash sugar (or honey) and 1-2 t pomegranate molasses, S&P. Taste and adjust acid, salt and sweetness as needed. Using a lettuce leaf is a good method of tasting.
When lentils are cool (or brought to room temp if cooked in advance), toss liberally with vinaigrette. Salt as needed.
Mince fresh herbs such as parsley and chives. Mix into lentils with walnuts.
Wash and spin dry lettuce leaves.
Clean turnips and cut thinly on mandoline with carrots and parmesan, if using. Cover and refrigerate to wait for salad assembly.

Assembly:
Lay lettuce leaves around outside of platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Dump dressed lentils in center. Top with chicken, artichokes and peppers. Sprinkle on coarsely broken up turnips, etc.

Sautéed chicken breasts, for a change

Let’s say you’ve got the boneless chicken breast sauté technique down, and you have worked it into your repetoire: Cook some vegetables, and then throw a chicken breast or three into a hot sauté pan, make a quick butter/lemon pan sauce and you’re done. Done that 10 times and over it.

Here’s a change of pace I discovered in Diana Henry’s brilliant chicken-all-ways cookbook A Bird in the Hand:  Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushroom sauce.  Here’s an exact recipe: https://tinyurl.com/yd3el7ar

But you will want to buy this book because it will bring chicken back into weeknight — and dinner party — rotation, in a very happy, and low-stress way.

Basically you soak some dried porcini or other wild mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes, Sauté some fresh mushrooms in butter — cremini is now my standard fresh mushroom — throw in the soaked dried mushrooms, add in the soaking liquid and some chicken stock, and reduce, and then add in some cream, and reduce again. Easy-peasy. You can make the sauce ahead of cooking the chicken and let it hang nearby while you cook the rest of your meal. Then when you’re ready, you sauté a chicken breast or three, and serve with the sauce. It is very, very delicious. Like the best mushroom bisque. Not too rich, and the soaking liquid adds a bass note/unami flavor. (You may be more of a lady than moi, and serve a delicate amount of sauce with chicken!)

Diana Henry has you serve the chicken and mushroom sauce over lentils, which seems to be a fine idea. But I didn’t take the time first go-round. I made a variation of White Dog Cafe’s roasted corn salsa since I had the first of the summer’s corn on hand.

 

Barbecued chicken

I love my Weber grill. Or used to. It was great in the summer to grill vegetables and other things. What was always a challenge was cooking barbecued chicken. The sugar in the barbecue sauce would burn. I learned to cook the chicken first over a cooler part of the grill, then add sauce at the end. More recently I decided to avoid the drama and used my oven broiler. Works great! I find chicken thighs are the most desirable for high heat cooking. There’s more meat than legs, and the dark meat does not dry out like breasts do. So get yourself some good local chicken thighs, some good barbecue sauce (or make your own, heat up your broiler, and you can have chicken in less than 25 minutes!

I adapted this from a Gourmet magazine recipe, picking up the technique of a short marinade in lemon juice.  It adds a bright flavor back note to the cooked chicken.

Ingredients:

1 lemon

4 chicken thighs

barbecue sauce (I like Dinosaur)

  1. Slice off some lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, and then make slices with a knife. Juice half the lemon. Put into wide bowl. Put S&P on chicken, and add chicken to bowl; turn in lemon zest and juice while you heat your oven to about 450 degrees.
  2. Turn on broiler. Put chicken pieces on broiler pan skin side up, and put in oven 4 inches from broiler. Broil 5 minutes and turn. Repeat for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken from oven and slather on sauce on one side. Broil for 4 minutes or until cooked but not burnt. Remove chicken, turn over with tongs, and slather and sauce and broil again.

Serve with sautéed sugar snap peas and/or coleslaw.