Here's a recipe I'm quite proud of: Roasted Chicken + Autumn Bread Salad. A quickly-roasted chicken delivers its juices to butternut squash, whole sweet shallots, and tart apples roasting beside it on a sheet pan. Peppery arugula in a light dressing mix with vinegar-soaked golden raisins and crispy-chewy toasted bread chunks make a lovely autumn panzanella-style salad that make a bed for the chicken and deeply flavored vegetables. It's all you need on one platter. I can't think of a better Saturday night or Sunday afternoon cool-weather dinner.
This roasted chicken and autumn bread salad borrows inspiration from the late Judy Rodgers, generous traditionalist and exemplary restaurateur. And golly, is it good.
First let me tell you about the chicken Ms. Rodgers made famous at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. At Zuni, whole, small chickens are roasted in a wood-fired brick oven. The juicy, crackly-skinned chicken is served with a warm bread salad. At Zuni, chunks of hand-torn toasted bread, scallions, garlic, bitter greens, dried currants, and pine nuts are tossed in a light vinaigrette. When you experience this dish, it becomes the gold standard for all roasted chicken. And the craveable bread salad is just as good.
Until now, my go-to method of roasting chicken has been the Zuni Cafe way. Ms. Rodger's way. I pat the chicken dry and give it a dry rub of salt and pepper. Then, I loosely wrap it and put in the fridge for two days before roasting. The chicken skin dries in the refrigerated air, setting it up for crispness. Then on roasting day I set into a hot skillet and rush into a very hot oven. A series of flips mid-roast, and viola! The most crispy-skinned and juicy chicken ever. Put this roasted chicken together with a seasonal bread salad-- oh my!
Sometimes I haven't planned this out well, or don't have the time or energy for these steps but still would love a roasted chicken. Hmmm. What could I do about that?
Ditching the two-day dry brine period and shortening the overall cooking time with our unique preparation method is a great advantage for the home cook. And it still turns out a chicken that is almost as wonderful as the Zuni style.
It's easy to end up with dry white meat when roasting a chicken, and yet so easy to prevent it! By separating the breast and wing section from the leg and thigh section, we give the legs and thighs a 15-minute head start in the oven, sparing the white meat from overcooking. I call this a major kitchen coup!
The best tool for working with a whole chicken is kitchen shears. Get yourself a good pair. Poor quality shears need to be replaced frequently, so make this investment up front when you can. This is the pair I recommend for its value. You can spend more, but these are very good and will last.
With this method we use our kitchen shears to easily separate the breast and wing section from the rest of the bird. We start by separating the breast from the legs in two quick "vee" cuts. Then we flip the breast section upwards like a page in a legal pad. From there, it's very simple to separate the front from the back of the bird at the shoulders.
Roasted winter squash, celery, apple, golden raisins, tons of shallot, and arugula make this a fall-into-winter salad. In the spring and summer, swap those things out for fresh peas or sauteed zucchini, blistered cherry tomatoes, lots of fresh herbs, scallions, and torn mustard greens for a lighter taste. Use what is in season, and the rest remains the same. No matter what time of year, be sure to use garlic confit if you can. It's is always in season!
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Is it possible to be glum in the presence of orange things, like this autumn sunset-hued roasted fig-glazed winter squash? As autumn comes knocking, this three-ingredient wonder is a cheery and scrumptious welcome to the cool-weather cooking season.
Like an oven being lit, my imaginative cooking fires are lit by trying new ingredients. This little recipe started when I was recently introduced to blackstrap vinegar. At our farmers market, I met Klee and Cherie Wiles-Pearson of Spoiled Rotten Vinegar who make, among other vinegar, the award-winning blackstrap vinegar used in this dish. They appropriately call it "One American's retort to Italy's aged Balsamic." Blackstrap molasses makes it full-bodied, rich, and sweet, and it works in most applications where one would normally reach for Balsamic. One sip of this living food and I am forever hooked.
Klee ferments and bottles Spoiled Rotten Vinegar's distinctive vinegars. Cherie designs the beautiful, information-filled labels that highlight the work of local artists. The charming Spoiled Rotten Vinegar bottles are not made to be hidden behind cupboard doors.
Besides straight-up out of the oven, here are other some ways to put this fig-glazed winter squash to work from now until spring.
What variety of winter squash wouldn't be lovely in this recipe? I am wildly fond of the Red Kuri variety, not only because of its red-orange luminosity, but also because it cooks to a silky texture without falling apart. Kabocha squash is similar. And don't forget Delicata, which offers a yellow contrast and is a great little squash, too. Except for butternut, none of the varieties listed in the recipe below require peeling. Their skins soften equally to the flesh when roasted.
Scrub winter squash and then microwave it for 2 minutes or so on high power before cutting into it. This allows the knife to slide through the squash more easily. I think it makes scooping the seeds out a little easier, too.
Above all, don't give up on this recipe if you can't find blackstrap vinegar. Dark Balsamic is a worthy substitute.
Where are fig jams, spreads, or butters found? Many grocery stores that have a gourmet-style cheese section carry fig jam, spread, or butter. Ask there. Trader Joe's fig butter is good and is generally the most affordable. I keep a jar or two of it around for cheese boards and cheesy paninis. You may also find it in the jams and jellies section of your grocery. This is the fig spread I'm using at the moment, and it is excellent.
The density of the glaze is dependant on the particular fig jam, spread, or butter you use. If your glaze is so thick that it doesn't drizzle off your mixing spoon, thin it with a tablespoon or so of water. You want it just loose enough to drizzle in a thin ribbon. If you happen to thin it too much, just reduce the fig/vinegar mixture back down in a small saucepan over medium heat for a few minutes.
Save any glaze leftovers and use it in a salad dressing. With a little olive oil added, it is terrific on a leafy salad with apples, chopped dried figs, and some toasted nuts.
Store leftover fig-glazed squash tightly covered in the fridge. Then rewarm it gently in a microwave oven or a toaster oven.
Warm Spinach Salad +Pancetta Dressing; recipe here.
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One of the graces of home cooking is that there are no paying customers demanding a dish to be exactly the same visit after visit. Each time you make roasted vegetable stock you use any variety of vegetables, bones, meats, herbs, and spices you happen to have. Each time the stock will have a subtly unique flavor. This may not work well in a restaurant, but is terrific at home.
This post is dedicated to my 1970's junior high school home economics teacher, Mrs. Waetje, who taught that reducing waste is a tenet of home economics-- a wise use of family finances. It is a great feeling to rummage through the fridge for vegetables that may otherwise go to waste and turn them into liquid gold. Thank you, Mrs. Waetje, and if you are still out there, I was paying attention despite my wiggles and perpetual chatter.
Your roasted vegetable stock will add layers and layers of flavor to the soups and stews you make-- that's a given. Use your liquid gold to make risotto, to cook rice and grains like barley, farro, and buckwheat groats. Use it as a medium in which to simmer your dried beans, and as a base for meaty braises. A ladleful added to just about any ragu or stew will deepen its flavor. And one of my favorite things is to cradle a hot mug of broth first thing in the morning as a gentle winter wake up tonic.
Roasting the vegetables before the simmer produces a deep, richly flavored stock perfect for supporting heartier cool-weather ingredients and recipes. Save the light golden unroasted vegetable stocks for spring and summer cooking. To make a typical light golden broth, simply do not roast the vegetables first, and omit the mushrooms. Follow the remaining directions as they are written.
There seems to be a different answer to this question for every person who asks it. Some say that to be called stock it needs to be made with bones, or that broth is something you sip and stock is something you cook with. Another pundit suggests broth is lighter and more flavorful, while stock is thicker. That is questionable, in my opinion, as light broths can be rather wan and flavorless, and thicker stocks can be full of complex flavor.
So, potayto, potahto. Make some, enjoy it, and call it whatever you want. To me, spring and summer cooking seems to lend itself to light broths, autumn and winter to rich, brown stocks. The cooking community seems to agree that the terms are interchangeable. Whatever rolls out of my mouth is the term I'll use!
The very thrifty among us (like Mrs. Waetje, I'm sure) keep a zip-bag in the freezer and stuff clean, vegetable scraps into it. When it's full it is time to make stock.
Classic mirepoix-- onion, carrot, and celery are standard issue in stock making. (You will note the absence of celery in the mis en place photo below. I didn't have any, and it is not noticeably missed in the resulting stock.) See the notes section of the recipe for a more comprehensive list of vegetables and optional ingredients that can contribute to great stock.
Most vegetables make a good stock, with a few exceptions; Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and artichokes can be overpowering or add off-putting flavor notes, so avoid them for this purpose. Beets, especially red ones, will likely make your stock an odd and unappealing color, so think twice about throwing those into the pot. Potatoes are fine, but I don't use them to keep the stock a little more clear than cloudy, a personal preference.
Mushrooms are lovely in a roasted vegetable stock. Dried mushrooms, even better! Just one ounce of dried mushrooms (don't roast them-- just add them to the pot with the water) intensify the rich flavor and add a deeper color to the stock. They are not required, but do add something nice and grounding.
Limp, wilted, scuffed, and past-their-prime vegetables are all fair game. Just be sure to peel or cut off any parts that have blackened or have signs of mold to keep your broth clean and fresh tasting.
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Feasts, cookie platters, cocktail parties, and office holiday goodies, oh my! As fun as it is, it doesn't take long to feel the overwhelm of holiday system overload, just when the mood of the day calls for merry and bright. As a remedy to seasonal splurges, include a salad of roasted mushrooms, warm grains, and baby spinach into your menu this week.
This quick little main-course salad starts with four easy-to-come by ingredients and a light but flavorful lemon vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made even better by using Meyer lemons, just coming into peak season.
Here I go on about celery again. Celery adds an essential textural crunch to this dish, and a bit of delicious freshness that you will welcome to your winter plate. I view this as this as a subtle necessity.
In the extraordinary Pacific Northwest food playground we have easy access to an array of cultivated and wild mushrooms. One trial of this recipe I used a shiitake-only approach. Another trial used a melange of chestnut, oyster, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms. I loved it both ways. If you can only access white buttons or brown criminis, please use them! Your dish will be as delicious as ever.
You have a lot of running room when it comes to the grain you use in your roasted mushroom salad. I used Purple Valley Barley, an organic product from my local Lonesome Whistle Farm. Lonesome Whistle also carries wheat berries, emmer (a farro) and oat groats that would be perfect. If you are new to this type of thing and eat gluten, I suggest starting with pearled barley, or just jump right in and try one of the above grains. If you eat gluten-free, give buckwheat groats or brown rice a try.
I started off suggesting a mushroom, warm grain, and spinach salad as a detoxifying healthy choice, so maybe through the holidays consider a tonic of pomegranate juice and sparkling water? Or not! I highly suggest the Artisanal Wine Cellars 2015 Dukes Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tom and Patty Feller, and their daughter, Mia, are a family operation dedicated to handcrafted expressive wines. The grapes in this bottle were grown by Pat and Jackie Dukes of Dukes Family Vineyard. We view the Artisanal's Pinot Noirs to be beautiful wines at incredible values.
Artichokes are another of the short-season wonders, and we try to eat as many as we can while they are available. This terrific artichoke recipe from Allison Roman's book Nothing Fancy is super easy, and makes the most succulent, juicy, and rich-tasting artichokes ever. It's nice to have a new addition to the 'choke repertoire.
After making this a dozen times or more, I want to encourage you to free yourself from exact measurements, and think instead about ratios. Start with as many artichokes as you plan to serve. I encourage you to make extra while you're at it as they are fantastic cold or warmed up as leftovers.
First, think big as far as your baking dish goes. It's surprising how much space the halved artichokes need for their flat surfaces to touch the pan. From there, just think in terms of having about 1/4-inch of wine in the bottom of the pan around the artichokes, to which you'll add another 1/4-inch of water. (I use Sarver Winery Pinot Gris for this-- my favorite from our neighboring winery!) You'll generously drizzle the artichokes with olive oil, and plop in maybe a half-tablespoon or more of butter for each artichoke half in the dish. Crush as many garlic cloves as you like-- we go big on garlic at this house, so perhaps 2 cloves for every artichoke half, and sprinkle the tops of them amply with kosher salt and red pepper flakes, or my favorite Aleppo pepper.
Aside from prepping the artichokes, the hands-on time is just a couple of minutes. Cover it in foil, bake in a 425 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes. Remove the foil from the pan, and assess if it needs a little more water-- you don't want the pan to run dry but do want a reduced glaze to form. Then continue to roast them for another 15 minutes until they turn a deep mahogany, and the cooking liquid reduces into a garlicy little sauce you'll want to dip bread into.
If you're hosting a gathering, this dish is for you! It can be made ahead, either the day of or the day before, and warmed back up at the last minute. The artichokes are equally charming served room temperature for warm-day entertaining. While the artichokes pair perfectly with most white wine varieties, they really shine served with the same Sarver Winery Pinot Gris they are cooked in.
Have you noticed what happens when a crowd of people eat with their fingers? It's a magical way to drop barriers and bring people together. Put a bowl on the table for guests to toss their tooth-scraped outer leaves into.
This dish makes a lovely first course, if you like stretching the table adventure out for hours like we do. It's also a perfect accompaniment to fish, chicken, or pork tenderloin. It is equally good as part of a vegetarian meal, served with a nutty rice pilaf or lemony pasta.
This exact technique works to sweeten and juice-up fennel. Give it a try!