Friday, September 24, 2010

tuesday - roast chicken with parsnips and beets, rustic spinach and cornmeal soup

There are few things in life as simple and lovely as a nice roast chicken. Also, I love that I can cook once and get not only several meals out of it, but also use the carcass to make a supply of chicken stock. Quite the multitasking meal. I used a recipe from this month's Bon Appétit, which calls for delicious root vegetables that are popping up at the farmers' market (I skipped the Jerusalem artichokes, though, as they're one of the few veggies I'm not a big fan of). The pan juices are reduced with a bit of beer, which gave it a great flavor.

I also served a cornmeal and spinach soup from the same issue of Bon Appétit. I used a combination of chicken broth and water (because I was low on chicken broth, hence using the chicken carcass to make more this week) and cut back on the total butter. Otherwise, I stayed pretty close to the recipe. The soup is made with polenta and became very thick (it's described as porridge-like in the recipe, which is pretty fitting). It was fine like that, but I thinned it out with a little of the beer-enhanced pan juices from the chicken, and that gave it a ton of extra flavor that I really enjoyed. You could, of course, use regular chicken broth to thin it instead.

Roast Chicken with Parsnips and Beets

1 4-to 4 1/2-pound chicken
4 large fresh sage leaves plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, divided
3 fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
3 fresh rosemary sprigs plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 2 1/2-inch-diameter beets, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
1 pound parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup lager or pale ale

Tuck wing tips under chicken. Starting at neck opening, gently loosen skin from breast of chicken. Slide 2 sage leaves, 1 thyme sprig, and 1 rosemary sprig under skin of each chicken breast half. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt inside chicken cavity and insert 1 thyme sprig and 1 rosemary sprig into cavity. Sprinkle outside of chicken all over with 2 teaspoons coarse salt. Place chicken, breast side up, on plate. Cover and chill at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Position oven rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450° F. Coat large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place chicken in center of prepared sheet. Place beets and parsnips in medium bowl. Add olive oil, chopped thyme, chopped rosemary, and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange vegetables around chicken on sheet. Roast chicken and vegetables 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° F. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken thigh registers 165° F and vegetables are tender, turning vegetables occasionally, about 50 minutes longer.

Using tongs, tilt chicken to allow juices to drain from main cavity onto baking sheet. Transfer chicken to platter. Arrange vegetables around chicken. Place baking sheet over 2 burners. Add beer to baking sheet and boil until pan juices are slightly reduced, scraping up browned bits, 3 to 4 minutes. Season juices to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer juices to small pitcher. Serve chicken and vegetables, passing pan juices alongside.

Makes 4 servings.

Rustic Spinach and Cornmeal Soup

2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
4 cups water
3/4 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
Coarse kosher salt
8 ounces baby spinach leaves

Bring broth and water to simmer in large saucepan; cover to keep warm. Whisk polenta and flour in heavy large pot. Add 1 cup hot broth mixture; whisk over medium-high heat until smooth. Stir in butter and garlic; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Gradually add 5 cups hot broth mixture by cupfuls. Boil gently over medium heat until polenta is tender and soup is creamy and thickened, whisking frequently and adding more broth (or pan juices from roast chicken recipe, above) to thin, if desired, about 25 minutes. Stir in spinach by handfuls; simmer until wilted, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Season with more coarse salt and black pepper.
Makes 6 servings.

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