Make the Most of Your Roast with This Adaptable Method
Saturday mornings in my house are spent cooking, especially foods that need to be cooked (lest they expire) and will provide delicious, nutritious meals throughout the week. It’s a relaxing time to enjoy cooking and put together odds and ends in savory, cohesive dishes. This challenges my practical and creative muscles while eliminating food waste, something that’s very important in a world that’s far too wasteful.
This Saturday, I was dealing with an acorn squash that was getting a little tired and a whole, uncooked chicken waiting in the refrigerator wings. I decided to cook the squash my favorite childhood way, halved and filled with butter, cinnamon, stock, and a little maple syrup. Normally, I would roast this in a roasting pan and cover it with foil, but I realized I was out of foil. My small Le Creuset Dutch oven happened to be out from a post-soup washing, so I used it as a great, hassle-free roasting vessel (complete with top cover) alternative. Meanwhile, aromas of butter and cinnamon wafting seductively through the air, I decided to put my larger 5.5 Le Creuset to use for roasting the chicken. The enamel coated cast iron is such a great conduit for even cooking and is easier than dealing with a hard-to-clean rack.
Instead of placing the vegetable aromatics underneath the rack, I scattered them on the bottom of the Dutch oven along with some halved lemon and fresh rosemary sprigs. In the center, I arranged an upside down oven-proof ramekin as a throne for the bird that would encourage air flow for even cooking and browning. I left the onion, garlic, and well-scrubbed carrot skins on, since they add to both nutrients, color, and flavor both for the chicken and the stock that will eventually make a soup. Rosemary is prolific in my garden this time of year and pairs well with chicken. In summer months, or according to preference, tarragon, thyme, parsley, sage, oregano, basil, mustard, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ancho chile, and many other herbs and seasonings work fabulously with the culinary juggernaut, multiple meal-maker otherwise known as a whole roasted chicken.
Getting the Chicken Oven-Ready
Here’s what you’ll end up with!
One whole six pound chicken
Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion quartered, skin on
6 large cloves garlic, whole with skin on
1 lemon, rinsed and quartered
2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2″-lengths
2 stalks celery, scrubbed and cut into 2″-lengths
5 branches fresh rosemary
Wing tips, chicken neck, gizzard, liver if provided with chicken
2 cups chicken stock for basting
Prep the chicken as described in “Getting the Chicken Oven-Ready,” above. Preheat oven to 475F. Place the chicken on top of the ramekin. Place the Dutch oven in the center rack of the oven. Cook for twenty minutes. Pour 1/2-cup of the stock evenly over the top of the chicken. Reduce heat t0 400F. Pour another 1/2-cup of the stock over the chicken. Cook another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325F. Continue cooking another 1 1/4 hours (count on roughly 20 minutes per pound), basting with 1/2-cup increments of the stock every 30 minutes. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Serve warm and enjoy the flavors and aromas!
To make a stock for next week’s soup, remove the rosemary and ramekin from the roasting pan. Chop the carved carcass into four or five large chunks, add to the roasting pan with roasting vegetables and lemon. Cover with water up to 1-inch of the top of the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for an hour, skimming and removing any fat or foam from the top. Cool and refrigerate.
Next week – We’ll turn this chicken into a week-long feast of soup, sandwiches, and hearty casseroles. Talk about the meal that keeps on giving. In the meantime, please take a few minutes to look over the details of this fabulous cooking and cookbook writing retreat I’m hosting with my friend and colleague Beckie Carrico Hemmerling in March. Come join the learning and delicious fun! And, please share the details with interested friends who may want to come along, too.
Recipe and Cookbook Giveaway
Here it is already. Time to tuck away the white shorts and Keds, pull out the grill, and celebrate the symbolic final hoopla of summer – Labor Day. When I was a girl living on our bucolic Massachusetts farm, it was a weekend to look forward to. Jammed with horse riding, touch football, and lots of burgers and dogs cooked (usually over-cooked) but always cooked with love by my darling Dad. For me, too, it was infused with the anticipation of returning to school. I loved going back to that elementary school, the smell of the paper and books, the sound of a pencil writing cursive on a piece of lined paper on a hard desk, even the slightly sweet, soggy spaghetti and meat sauce in the cafeteria. I remember laying out my first day of school outfit on my bed, right down to the knee socks and polished Mary Jane’s. Those were heady days!
This Labor Day weekend has a slightly heightened sense of joy, like back in those school days. My latest cookbook, Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) will be released Tuesday. Available in bookstores near you and online, practically by the time you read this. The recipe that follows is one of my favorites, because it is packed with one of my favorite summer foods – summer squash and zucchini. Still beautiful in South Carolina this time of year, they’re reaching the end of their season elsewhere and soon will here, too. Though this dish requires just a bit more work than placing the squash on a grill, it’s a lovely do-ahead that will impress and pair with anything from a steak to barbecue.
Cheddar Two-Summer-Squash Mash
Yields 6 servings
Summer squash, slightly sweet and squeaks-in-your-teeth fresh at peak summer season, is one of my favorite summer treats. Often, I’ll saute either yellow summer squash or zucchini in a little olive oil wiht some red onion, finish it with a sprinkle of fresh basil and grated Parmesan, and call it a summer’s night. However, the two squashes marry beautifully together in this beautiful mash casserole, which resonates with the lemony freshness of thyme and squash flavor. The texture is airy and light, almost mousse-like, topped with a buttery panko bread crumb crunch. While you can substitute unseasoned traditional bread crumbs, panko celivers a crunch edge and it’s really worth having in your pantry at all times. The casserole is delicious hot, warm, or even room temperature.
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice, about 3 cups (370 g)
3 medium yellow summer squash, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice, about 4 cups (495 g)
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk sour cream
2 cups (240 g) grated mild cheddar cheese
1 small shallot, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup panko bread crumbs or unseasoned traditional bread crumbs
Pinch of ground black pepper and kosher or sea salt
Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).
Place the zucchini and summer squash in a medium saucepan. Pour in enough water to barely cover and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain very well in a colander, gently pressing out any excess water, and return to the pan.
Mash with a manual masher until the squash is chunky smooth. With a wooden spoon, blend in the thyme, sour cream, cheese, shallot, pepper, remaining salt, egg, and nutmeg. Pour into a medium (2-quart / 2-l) casserole that has been greased with 1 tablespoon of the butter, spreading with spoon to even the top.
Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the panko and seasoning and toss to coat. Brown the crumbs to a golden brown, being careful to toss and avoid burning. Spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered, or until bubbly and golden brown. Rest 10 minutes before serving and garnish with some fresh thyme sprigs. This makes a lovely meal with a green salad and fresh bread and butter. The casserole can be assembled ahead, refrigerated, and baked just before serving.
I told you what I love about Labor Day. Now’s your turn to tell me what you love about this holiday and transition from summer into fall. Favorite memories, foods, thoughts – they’re all welcome. Please leave your comment here and I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, book release day.
I look forward to hearing from you and please have a safe, happy and delicious holiday!