While this post is primarily about roasted chicken, it’s really all about inspiration. So much of what we do in the kitchen is the result of being inspired, one way or another. Inspiration can come at any moment, in any form. And before your know it, your inspiration has manifested itself into a delicious meal (or a supreme disaster, but we’ll focus on the positive for now).
Case in point being this roasted chicken with root vegetables dish, which wasn’t even a thought in the back of my mind one recent weekday afternoon. But within hours it was roasting away in my oven. Here’s how it happened.
1. It all started with a Twitter post from Adam Roberts, aka The Amateur Gourmet. He aptly noted that the fall weather was perfect for Thomas Keller’s roasted chicken with root vegetables – a dish that I had previously made after Roberts wrote about it on his blog last winter. It was feeling cooler in DC, and I didn’t have anything else planned for dinner, so why not try it again? (Since we’re discussing Roberts, he also gets major kudos for this “It Gets Better” post – so two big points for inspiration).
2. Roberts led me to Thomas Keller and the roasted chicken recipe from his latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, which I picked up at a book signing with Keller a few months ago. He’s all sorts of inspiration. Look at one of Keller’s restaurants’ menus or open up any of his cookbooks and just try not to be inspired. You might be overwhelmed, but that’s where Ad Hoc comes in. It’s for everyday cooking, but it doesn’t dumb things down either. Many of the recipes included in the cookbook are for family style meals too, so it’s great for a home cook looking for quality yet technique driving recipes.
3. Reading over the recipe in Ad Hoc also got me excited because it calls for using a cast iron skillet. Which, in turn, reminded me of this photo from Michael Ruhlman’s excellent blog. If that doesn’t make you want to run out and roast a chicken, then I don’t know what will.
4. Thinking of that photo and drooling over it in my mind made me thirsty. So of course, I started thinking about wine. Good wine, like a bottle I recently purchased at Linden Vineyards. This made me want to roast a chicken even more, not only so I could eat a tasty roasted bird, but also drink that wine.
So, there you have it. By 6pm I was making a bee line to Whole Foods and a few hours later dinner was served. I had been inspired.Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables Recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home One chicken, 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 pounds Kosher salt and ground black pepper 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed 6 thyme sprigs 2 large leeks 3 tennis-ball-sized rutabagas 2 tennis-ball-sized turnips 4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half 1 small yellow onion, trimmed, leaving the root intact, and cut into quarters 8 small golf-ball-sized red-skinned potatoes 1/3 cup canola oil 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Remove any remaining innards if needed. Using a pairing knife, cut out the wishbone from the chicken. Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, 3 of the garlic cloves, and 5 sprigs of thyme. Massage the inside of the chicken to infuse the flavors. Truss the chicken.
Cut off the dark green leaves from the tops of the leeks, trim off and discard any darkened outer layers, and trim the root ends – cutting on a 45 degree angle. Then slit the leeks lengthwise almost in half, starting 1/2 inch about the root end. Rinse the leeks in water.
Cut off both ends of the rutabagas, stand on end, and trim away the skin, working from top to bottom and removing any tough layers. Cut into 3/4 inch wedges. Repeat with the turnips and cut into wedges to match the rutabagas.
Combine all of the vegetables and the remaining garlic and thyme sprig in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan.
Rub the remaining oil all over the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper (Ed. note: I also seasoned with finely chopped thyme, rosemary, and sage from the poultry herbs packet I had purchased).
Make a nest in the center of the vegetables and nestle the chicken in it. Cut the butter into 4-5 pieces and place over the chicken.
Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 degrees in the meatiest portion of the chicken – the thighs, under the breast where the thigh meets the breast – and the juices run clear. If necessary, return the chicken to the oven for more roasting and check it every 5 minutes.
(Ed. Note – After lowering the temperature to 400 degress, I used a spoon to baste the chicken with the pan juices, every 15 minutes or so. I found that this helped even out the golden color of the the bird once it was finished.)
Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes.
Just before serving, set the pan of vegetables over medium heat and reheat the vegetables, turning them and glazing with the pan juices.
Cut the chicken into serving pieces, arrange over the vegetables and serve.