Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Dinner Volume I

Since I started cooking for myself, nothing said Sunday dinner to me like a good roasted chicken. There are literally thousands of ways to prepare it, and it can tend to be a fickle main course. I've never had it turn out the same way for me, yet fortunately if it was started with a really good chicken, they've never been bad. A winning preparation in our home is usually roasting the bird in a searingly hot oven atop a wire rack over thinly sliced potatoes. This encourages a crisp skin on the chicken as well as some absurdly good potatoes that have been 'oven fried' in a sense, in the chickens juices and fat, as well as the compound butter that had been spread under the skin. To change things up a bit for these warmer days, I omitted the satisfyingly greasy and crisp potatoes for a lighter version tossed with yellow haricot vert and a lemony vinaigrette. Some bitter mustard and collard greens or rainbow chard accentuate the richness of the chicken. Perfect summer time version of a wintery comfort food classic in my humble opinion.
The vinaigrette I made for the potatoes and beans uses a shallot oil that is very easy to make. I added some thinly sliced garlic and used the fried alliums to top my greens - this shallot oil is a real power player, let me tell you. I saw it on 101 Cookbooks and knew I had to try it immediately. Super versatile and with a long (refrigerated) shelf life, it is definitely worth slicing all those shallots.

To cut down a bit on my stress level, I like to make the shallot oil and greens the day before or morning of this meal. That way all I have to worry about is popping the chicken in the oven, boiling my potatoes and beans and quickly whisking up a vinaigrette. 



for the greens:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots, ~15 - 20
10 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1.5 - 2 lbs greens of your choice, such as collards, mustard, chard or a combination thereof that have been thoroughly washed and loosely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
~1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock

In a large saucepan, add the oil and heat over medium low. Add the shallots first and cook for about 4 - 5 minutes, till they start getting a little golden. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, till everything is golden and crisp. Turn off the heat and remove the crispy alliums to a paper towel lined plate. Let the oil cool to about room temp and place all but 2 Tbsp into a container with an air tight lid. Place this in the fridge.

Place pan over medium heat and add the greens, followed with the salt and pepper. Toss well until they begin to uniformally wilt. Add the vinegar and stock. Cover and cook for 25 - 35 minutes (depending on the greens your using - chard is quicker than the heartier greens), stirring occasionally. If the pan gets dry and the greens start sizzling, add a generous splash of stock. Once the greens are done, set to the side and let cool (if serving later) and store in an airtight container in the fridge. If not, serve immediately and top with the fried shallots and garlic.

for the chicken:
                                                                                 

1 3 - 4 lb organic free range chicken, locally raised if 
   available 
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated 
1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
zest of whole organic lemon

Preheat your oven to 450*. Combine the butter and remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix well- this can be done up to 3 days in advance; just bring to room temp before using. Set aside.

Spatchcock your chicken by removing the back bone with kitchen shears. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. With the chicken breast side up, firmly push on the breast bone to break it. Gently slip your fingers under the skin and separate it from the meat, ensuring to release all the membranes attaching the skin to the chicken. Place about 1 Tbsp of the compound butter under each section of the chicken with a spoon. Spread the butter over the meat by moving your fingers over the skin - it is much easier this way and will actually stay under the skin. Spread any remaining butter over the skin and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck the wings under the breast to keep from burning.

Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack, or silpat. Ensure there is a rack on the 2nd to top level in your oven, and place your beautifully buttered bird onto the rack. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the weight of your chicken. I've made this a lot, so I can usually tell by the smell and feel of the chicken if its cooked through. If you're a bit wary of this, use a good meat thermometer. I believe 160 is recommended for the breasts and 165 - 175 for the thighs. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.


for the potatoes and beans:

3 - 5 medium or small yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch
   pieces
~1 lb haricot vert or regular green bean, trimmed
juice of the zested lemon
1/4 - 1/3 cup shallot oil (I like my vinaigrettes on 
   the vinegar-y side; a traditional ratio is 1 part
   acid to 3 parts oil)
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Place a large pot full of cold water on the stove and add the potatoes. Crank the heat to high. Once the water is boiling, add a heavy pinch of salt and cook the potatoes for 3 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 3 more minutes. While the veggies are cooking, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mustard and a good pinch of salt and pepper. 

Drain the water and place cooked veg into a large bowl. You want the potatoes to be tender yet still firm so they don't fall apart once they're tossed. Pour over the vinaigrette and toss well. This is best served warm or room temperature, so its a great thing to make a while the chicken is resting.

This is a great meal for guests, or just your usual crew. If you end up with any leftover chicken, I'll be posting a 'to die for' chicken salad recipe later this week. It has officially become one of my husband's favorite things, and is a great way to make your leftovers almost better than they were the first time around.



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