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.
The Inspiration for Roasted Chicken + Autumn Bread Salad
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.
How Can I Roast a Chicken Without Drying Out the White Meat?
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.
Match Your Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad to the Season
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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Preheat the oven to 425°. Place one oven rack in the upper third of the oven, and one in the lower third. Wipe the chicken dry. Using kitchen shears, and the chicken breast-side up and legs pointed to you, cut along the bottom edges of the breast upwards toward the wing on each side, following the natural "vee" shape. Fold the breast upward (like flipping a page of a legal pad). Press down to flatten the chicken. Use the shears to separate the breast/wing section from the backbone and neck.
Sprinkle both bird sections liberally with salt and pepper. Place the leg/thigh section on the baking sheet and put several sprigs of thyme, a sprig of sage, and a sprig of rosemary under it. Place the baking sheet on the lower oven rack for 15 minutes.
Prep the vegetables and apple while the legs/thighs are roasting. Place them in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste, and add the garlic confit (or olive oil and garlic cloves) and toss well to coat the vegetables in oil and set it aside.
After the first 15 minute roast, place the chicken breast/wing section on the baking sheet with herbs underneath and roast for another 15 minutes. While this is happening, place the golden raisins in a small dish and cover them with the vinegar. Set aside.
After the second 15 minute roast, place the prepared vegetable mixture all around the chicken on the baking sheet, distributing them evenly. Place the baking sheet back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
During this 15 minute roast, tear the bread into uneven bite-sized chunks onto a small baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the bread pieces well. Place the bread pieces in the oven on the upper rack for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss, then if necessary, return to the oven for another few minutes. You are looking for a mix of crunch and tender bits, some browning and crispy bits, and some that will be softer. This step is very dependent on your own oven, so please watch carefully to avoid burning!
When the chicken reaches 160° at the thickest part of the thigh and breast, it is done. Remove from the oven to rest before cutting it into serving pieces.
In a large bowl (I use the same bowl that the vegetables were in) place the toasted bread chunks, arugula, another swirl of olive oil, and the golden raisins and their vinegar. Toss well and spread the bread salad on a platter. Spoon the roasted vegetables and all the pan juices onto the bread salad.
Use the kitchen shears to separate the chicken into 2 legs, two thighs, two wings, and two breasts. Use a heavy knife to cut the breast pieces in half, resulting in 4 chicken breast pieces. Arrange the ckien over the vegetables and serve.
This recipe is designed for a very special group of people who started out as neighbors and became dear friends. Ever since we moved to the 101-Mile Kitchen we gather frequently to relax, shoot the breeze, eat and drink. This recipe is a thank you to these amazing souls who have kept my heart from drooping during the last 20 months of living in an upside down world, and to the universe for putting us in each other's paths.
Besides being funny, smart, and caring, our neighbors all enjoy cooking great food and drinking nice wine. (There might be a splash of bourbon here and there, too.) Sometimes we have a full-on meal, but most often we meet over easy noshes, charcuterie, spreads and dips, and casual dishes. I can't wait to make this poutine for them.
What is the Best Pairing?
While it makes a terrific main course at its heart poutine is bar food and doesn't need a precious pairing. I'd suggest a Southern Rhone style blend. This time I served the poutine with a very inexpensive ($13) 2017 Château Saint-Estève Cuvée Classique Corbières Rouge-- a nice old world 60% Grenache- 40% Syrah blend. It is lively, with whispers of herbs and deep fruit that compliment the umami and herbal flavors in the gravy.
Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.
Making the Poutine + Gravy
Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy is another of those one-hour wonders. It takes maybe ten minutes to prep the ingredients, 16 minutes in the oven to get the parsnips on their tender and crunchy way while the mushrooms rehydrate, and another 15 or 20 minutes to make the gravy while the parsnips are finishing off. A foil-lined sheet pan, a large pan, a knife, and a bowl are the only tools used so clean-up is speedy.
Parsnips and shallots grow just about anywhere, so they should fit in to most people's imaginary 101-mile sourcing radius. You can find dried Porcini mushrooms at many groceries and online. My favorite source is Pistol River Mushroom Farm in Southern Oregon. Dried mushrooms seem expensive until you realize that one ounce of dried mushrooms is equal to 8 ounces of fresh. The dark color of the soaking liquid becomes the intensely flavored broth for the gravy-- something a fresh mushroom just can't do.
As an aside, tuck this mushroom gravy recipe away to use in many other ways. I can't wait to ladle it onto a split and fluffed baked potato one cold winter's day.
The parsnips roast, the mushrooms soak and the shallots, garlic, and herbs are prepped; caramelizing the shallots; the mushrooms and their soaking water go into the gravy; everything is plated and topped with cheese curds.
You'd never know there was no meat in this rich silky poutine gravy, and the crunchy, chewy roasted parsnips take it to new but familiar places. A fantastic main or "bar food" course for vegans and omnivores alike.
1 oz.dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried cooking mushroom
12oz.shallot, approximately 4 large peeled and sliced ½" thick
2tablespoonsfresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2½tablespoonsGF One-for-One flour, rice flour, or all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
¼lb.cheese curds, or goat cheese
For the Parsnips
Preheat the oven to 400° convection and line a baking sheet with foil.
Trim and peel the parsnips. Quarter them lengthwise, and if they are especially thick, cut them again into eighths. Lay them out on the foil lined baking sheet, and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Toss them with your hands to evenly cover them in the olive oil, and spread them out flat at much as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and black pepper. Bake for 16 minutes, and them flip them over. Reduce the oven heat to 350°. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil on any parts that look parched. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the parsnips and return to the oven for another 16-20 minutes. Check them often for doneness-- the thick tops will be browned and tender, the thin ends will be well browned and somewhat crispy.
For the Mushroom Shallot Gravy
As soon as the parsnips are in the oven, place the dried porcini in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, and cover with hot tap water to the 3-cup mark. Set aside.
Heat enough olive oil over medium-high heat to generously cover the bottom of a sauteuse or large pan. Slide in the sliced shallots and leave without turning until the bottoms are browned. Stir, flipping them over, and again allow them to brown. After the first ten minutes add the minced garlic, thyme, and a 4-finger pinch of salt. Continue the browning process until the shallots are completely tender but not mushy, and have a good amount of browned caramelization throughout.
Stir in the flour, and continuously stir until the flour is well incorporated and beginning to stick to the pan. Stir for about three minutes.
Gradually ladle in the soaked mushrooms and their dark brown soaking liquid, stirring between ladlefuls, until it it incorporated. You will see the gravy begin to thicken immediately-- stir throughout this process to avoid any lumps.
Stirring frequently, bring the gravy to a boil, and add some more salt. There should be about one teaspoon total in the gravy, or to taste. Add a very generous amount of black pepper to season. Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken for about 6 minutes.
Bring it All Together
Arrange the roasted parsnips on a large warmed platter in a spiky spoke-like fashion. Ladle the hot gravy in the center. Arrange the cheese curds over the gravy, and top with a bunch of thyme for garnish. Serve while piping hot.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.