Saturday, July 14, 2007

Roast Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Spinach Salad

I learned how to roast a chicken from Jamie Oliver. We had cable television for a little while when I was living in Providence, and I literally scheduled my day around programs on the Food Network, particularly "The Naked Chef". In addition to his boyish charm and adorable kitchen, Jamie Oliver knows how to cook simply, using good fresh ingredients and a lot of heart. I have a few of his cookbooks, and I love his recipes, but I have to say that SEEING him prepare the roast chicken on his show is what truly convinced me of how easy and delicious it would be. Over the last few years, I have adapted and elaborated on his recipe, but I still follow his method. It's amazing how wonderful a whole roasted chicken looks, fresh out of the oven, and it's by far one of the simplest dinners I make. My favorite way to serve it is with garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach salad.

For the chicken:

1 whole roasting chicken
2 sticks of butter, softened
Bunch of fresh thyme
1 large lemon
Several cloves of garlic

Clean the chicken with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan. Carefully remove the leaves from the thyme into a small bowl. Zest the lemon into the same bowl, and then add salt and pepper, and the butter. Using your hands, scrunch everything into the butter. Lift the skin from the breast of the chicken away from the meat, and stuff this space with the butter mixture. Rub the remaining bit of butter from your hands all over the top of the skin. With a sharp knife, slash the thighs and push garlic cloves into the incisions. Place more garlic and the zested lemon (cut in half) in the cavity of the chicken. Cook at 425 for 20 minutes before basting, and then for another 40 minutes. When it's done roasting, let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before carving.

If you want to roast some vegetables with the chicken (I recommend parsnips, carrots, potatoes and fennel), chop them up and steam them, and then add them to the pan around the chicken after 20 minutes. When you baste the bird be sure to coat the vegetables in the juices as well.

For the Potatoes:

Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
Cream or milk

Cut the top off the garlic bulb and wrap in foil, leaving a little vent at the top. Bake in the oven for about a half hour (you can do this while the chicken is roasting). Meanwhile, boil the potatoes with the skins on. When the garlic is done roasting, squeeze out the soft cloves and mash with the potatoes in a large bowl. Add butter, cream, salt and pepper to taste. I like my potatoes chunky, but if you want them smoother, run the mixture through a food processor.

For the Spinach Salad:

Fresh baby spinach
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 hard-cooked egg per person, sliced
Red onion, finely sliced
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Mix the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of sugar (to taste) to make a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the spinach, tomatoes and onions in this dressing, and add the sliced eggs on top.

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