Kitchen Call: Asparagus with a ‘spring’ chicken
Roasted chicken means spring.
It means Sunday dinner, once a weekly occurrence when extended family gathered around the table.
Today, family is likely to be spread around the country or beyond, and the rare family dinner becomes even more festive.
Roasted chicken, a bow to the time when it was considered luxury food, begs new potatoes in a rainbow of colors – red, white, purple, yellow. Look for them displayed together at the supermarket. Roast the potatoes on sheet pans. Cut them into halves so their colors show. If you like, add real baby carrots (not the whittled logs promoted as “baby” carrots) slivers of red onion, whole radishes, and cauliflower florets. Maybe a clove or two of garlic still in the papery skins, added for flavor and discarded at the end of cooking.
And asparagus, another springtime song. Roast the asparagus separately. The recipe here is for thick asparagus spears, but you can just as easily use pencil thin ones with an adjusted cooking time. I like to sprinkle them with a little balsamic vinegar with the olive oil. Or bake fat asparagus, at 325F drizzled in butter. When they are nearly tender, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to the oven, about 3 minutes until the cheese melts.
Bring in a fresh breeze with an open window, watching the curtains flutter merrily while you pull out the good dishes and flatware. Flap out your best tablecloth and napkins, the ones you save for holidays. And the good glassware, too. (Well, maybe heavy plastic for the kids.) Close the windows before a chill sets in.
Oh, dessert? After all that work, I don’t have time. I want a little energy to enjoy. I head for my favorite bakery and buy a cake. And I never forget the ice cream. This is a party, after all!
Leftovers? Try something different. A bread salad specifically invented to use up extra roasted chicken. Buy the best bread you can find at a local bakery or in the supermarket fresh baked section.
ROASTED SPRING CHICKEN
Makes 4 servings
Sea salt heightens all the flavors. Take the time to grind the whole black peppercorns. To loosen the chicken skin, start with a thin boning knife, then continue, using fingers to lift the skin. Wash hands thoroughly in hot soapy water. Some recipes advise rinsing the chicken before cooking, but I skip that process since modern testing proved that rinsing splashes bacteria around the kitchen. The roasting will destroys any bacteria.
French cooks turn a whole chicken on all four sides while roasting. American cooks don’t fuss this much, but starting a chicken, breast side down, then turning it breast side up partway through the process makes for a more evenly cooked bird.
1 roasting chicken, 5 to 6 pounds
2 tablespoons fresh flat parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
coarse sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 325F.
Loosen the breast skin from the chicken. Mash together the herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and butter. Spread the mixture under the skin on each side of the breast bone. Truss the bird; rub olive oil and lemon juice over the chicken spring. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place chicken, breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan (Butter the rack first.) Roast 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove the pan from the oven; turn chicken breast side up. Raise the heat to 375F and continue roasting until the skin is crisp and golden brown. After 45 to 60 minutes, an instant-read thermometer piercing the thigh should read between 165F and 170F.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter to rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This is a basic roasted asparagus recipe. Serve this immediately for eye appeal; if you wait it still tastes good, but the asparagus tends to look old and wrinkly.
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 pound fat asparagus, trimmed and bottom portion of stalks peeled
Coarse sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 500F. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil spray.
Toss asparagus with olive oil to coat stalks evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast asparagus for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking to roll the asparagus every 2 minutes, until crisp-tender and slightly charred at the edges. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This salad was created to spice up leftover chicken, so set aside some of the white meat for tomorrow. Use hearty, country-style bread, tossed in olive oil and toasted in the oven.
8 cups bread cubes
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 scallions, white and light green portions, sliced crosswise
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
A handful of baby arugula
Place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, toss together the raisins, vinegar, water; let stand for 15 minute.
Add the raisin mixture to the toasted bread. Add the green onions, parsley, lemon zest, and arugula; toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Line a serving platter with this salad. Top with sliced warm leftover white meat chicken.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, read her blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @Kitchencall.