This entry is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Sue. She may have surpased my mother in being my biggest fan. I can always count on her to read and comment on anything I write. She's always encouraging and doesn't hesistate to share her perspective for which I am truly grateful and deeply respect.
Sue and her youngest son, Matthew, were here to visit the first week of August. During their visit, Sue and I got some much needed girl time while my husband took the boys on a couple of day trips. Sue had volunteered to be a guinea pig while she was here, so I did some cooking. One of the things I made while she was here was roasted chicken with roasted vegetables. I then pureed the roasted vegetables into a sauce. The sauce I later used for eggplant parmesean for the adults and meatballs and pasta for the boys.
The idea for the sauce came as I was trying to use up the abundance of vegetables that were coming through in our farm share as well as a result of a little bit of overbuying on my part at Verrill Farm. (I am like a kid in a candy store when it comes to summer vegetables and fruits. The colors are so bright and vibrant and there are so many varieties that I can't help filling up my basket.) I had ordered chickens late in the spring from Springdell Farm so when I roasted the first one shortly after picking it up from the farm, I threw in several of the veggies that were waiting for a purpose and then pureed them up into a sauce which I served over pasta. My family and I really liked the flavor, so I decided to try it again while Sue was here for her visit.
Since both Matthew and PJ gobbled up the sauce with their meatballs and pasta, Sue asked me for the recipe. I told Sue I would post what I did on my blog.
The whole thing starts with a roasted chicken. Roasted chicken is one of my favorite meals to make...especially on a cold weekend afternoon. I love the smell of the herbs, vegetables and chicken filling the house. I serve roasted chicken with roasted vegetables and a side of mashed potatoes and savory gravy...the ultimate comfort food.
The way I roast chicken is inspired by an Italian student named Stefano who I knew back in my mid-twenties. He was here working on his MBA and was the friend of the guy I was dating at the time. One rainy Sunday afternoon, on a visit to his apartment, he roasted a chicken for four of us which made the best pan drippings I'd ever tasted. I watched Stefano prepare the bird in his very sparse, kitchen. He had just moved into a new apartment that afternoon, so we were all sitting around on yet unpacked boxes chatting and sipping wine while he prepared the bird. First, he took the chicken and stuffed it with lemons and garlic, then he sliced open the skin on the breast and placed pieces of cold butter underneath the skin to moisten the breast meat as it cooked. While the chicken was roasting Stefano added diced potatoes. As we sat and talked, the aroma of chicken, lemons and garlic filled the tiny apartment and the heat from the oven and the red wine took away the chill left by the rain outside. When Stefano finally pulled the bird out of the oven, the skin was golden brown. We eyed the bird as it rested; our mouths watering. When Stefano finally carved the chicken, it was bursting with juices. He served us slices directly from the knife because no one wanted to wait long enough to gather plates and utensils, so we sat and ate the chicken right out of the roasting pan and fought over the dripping soaked potatoes. At the end of the meal we licked our greasy fingers and lips and let out sighs of gratitude and satisfaction. After enjoying that meal in Stefano's kitchen, I decided I that this was the way I would prefer to prepare chicken from now.
Over the years, I have varied the process. Up until the last two times I roasted chicken, I stillstuffed the cavity with lemons. I like the way the lemons make for tangy pan drippings. I find these dripping make for a much richer, citrusy gravy. However, about a week ago, I was out of lemons and decided to use apples instead. The change resulted in a depth and an earthiness that wasn't there with the lemons and yet there was still the tangyness that I liked. So, now I've decided I will use apples from now on which fits in nicely with my goal of using locally sourced foods in my cooking.
For many years I continued to place the butter underneath the skin on the breast meat as well. I varied the stuffing a bit adding onions and fresh herbs to help flavor the drippings. I admit that I like crispy chicken skin. Putting butter underneath the skin did moisten the breast, but it didn't do much to flavor the skin, so I decided to try rubbing the chicken with olive oil and herbs. That definitely made the difference and now I use a combination of olive oil, sea salt and herbs de Provence to rub the chicken for roasting.
So, here is how I roast chicken and the process for making the roasted vegetable sauce:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
Place chicken in roasting pan with lid.
Stuff cavity of chicken with apples, garlic cloves and onions
Rub chicken with olive oil, sea salt and herbes de provence
Place half cup water in bottom of roasting pan
Place lid on pan and cook for 30 minutes
While chicken is cooking cube vegetables [the types I've been using are a variety of summer squashes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, green and red peppers]
Toss vegetables with olive oil, sea salt and pepper
When chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, add prepared vegetables to roasting pan and continue to roast both the vegetables and chicken for another hour or until chicken achieves an internal temp of 165 degrees. (Check out the Food Safety and Inspection Web site for more information about cooking meats safely.)
Remove chicken from roasting pan and place of carving surface to rest. Place roasting pan on burner and continue to simmer. Depending on your taste and the amount of tomatoes you added to the roasting pan, you may want to add a little bit of tomato paste at this point.
If you like to make gravy from your pan drippings, you can reserve some of the drippings from the roasting pan before adding the additional tomatoe paste. You can also reserve drippings from the roasted chicken as you are carving it.
When vegetables are tender puree them in a food processor.
I make several different meals using this one roasted chicken and vegetables. The first round is usually carved chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and roasted vegetables. I simply take out some of the vegetables before pureeing the rest. I will use the pureed sauce with meatballs or eggplant. The rest of the roasted chicken often becomes a chicken salad or I will use some of the meat in a soup. After roasting, I put the chicken in a stockpot with vegetables and herbs and cook it down to use as a base for soups later on.
As you can see, one roasting chicken and some vegetables can go a long way!