We’ve become huge fans of roast chicken this year. I rub a mix of herbs, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil under its skin, and stuff it full of the same herbs, a few cloves of garlic, and half a lemon. The lemon is, I think, the secret weapon. It gives the finished meat a really nice light suggestion of citrus. I’ve also started creating my own rack in the cheap metal rectangular baking pan that subs in for a roasting pan in my kitchen: on Kelsey Nixon’s suggestion, I make a triangle in the bottom of the pan out of a few carrots, a few sticks of celery, and a halved onion. This gives the chicken a nice platform to sit on so it doesn’t steam in the juices it exudes. Plus, I like to think the extra vegetables impart a nice, delicate flavor into the meat as well. (Plus plus, the vegetables roast down and caramelize in the chicken fat and juices, and you can extract them from the pan and gobble them as an extra veggie with your dinner, as you can see I’ve done with the carrots below. Their skins maintain the tiniest resistance to the teeth, and they taste like all the goodness of chicken skin, but really you’re just eating a roasted carrot!) I roast breast side down, always, to keep the white meat as juicy as possible. I’ve done this vegetable trick with our Thanksgiving turkey the last two years as well and I’m ridiculously pleased with the results.
But this isn’t about Bittman, is it? To go with this chicken, I decided to go with one of his chutney ingredient combinations:
“5. Apple Chutney: Cook big chunks of peeled, cored apple with a little apple cider, Dijon or whole-grain mustard and chopped sage until the chutney thickens. Don’t cook it until it becomes apple sauce unless you want to.”
Between that day and this moment, I lost the small square of paper onto which I scribble quantities. Alas. So what follows are approximations from memory, but I think this is really a “how you like it” sort of dish, so you’d be using my values only as approximations anyway.
¼- ½ cup Gravenstein apple juice
1 generous TB whole grain mustard
1 TB finely minced sage
I tumbled these together in a small saucepan and cooked it over medium heat for fifteen minutes or so, stirring infrequently and gently, until the apples became soft but still resistant, and the juice had somehow thickened into what was not quite chunky applesauce, but was securely on its way.
We ate this draped over juicy, moist hunks of chicken, and while not the same perfect pairing as I think it would be with a well breaded and deeply fried pork chop, it was pretty delicious. I liked the combination of apples and mustard: they added a tart sweetness that balanced well with the sharp spice and the deep earthy flavor of the sage.
With this, in what must be one of the more monochromatic plates ever made, we had parsnip “puree.” I place this descriptor in quotations because my results were less than smooth. I didn’t core the parsnips or roast them long enough to make them sufficiently tender for my immersion blender. Alas. They were delicious, however, and they are a commodity I plan to revisit. Once I get the specs correct, I will certainly share the recipe here. It involved butter, and heavy cream, and roasted garlic, all in embarrassingly large quantities. But once you swirl them together you can’t see how much there ever was, which means it doesn’t count, right?