Friday, October 12, 2018

Roast Lemon Herb Chicken with Root Vegetables

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, and celeriac.

Root vegetables are delicious roasted, and if you have the oven on, you should also roast a Fog Hollow Farm chicken. I like the method of spatchcocking the bird (removing it's backbone, which you can use to make a quick stock) and cooking it "under a brick" in a searing hot cast iron skillet to get the skin crispy and golden. Then you can flip it, tucking under some lemon slices and herbs to flavor the pan juices, and cook it at a lower temperature along with a sheet pan of cubed root vegetables.

I served our chicken with mash potatoes (always a favorite in our household), braised leeks, and a quick lemony gravy made with the pan juices. It felt like a low key dry run for Thanksgiving, which reminds me to remind you to reserve your Fair Valley Farm Thanksgiving turkey. 

Roast Lemon Herb Chicken with Root Vegetables
One 3 to 4 lb whole chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
drizzle of olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
6 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbsp flour
1 to 2 cups chicken broth

selection of root vegetables (parsnips, celeriac, beet, sweet potato), cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch cubes to make about 3 cups.

optional quick chicken stock
chicken backbone
1 chopped onion
1 chopped celery stalk
4 sprigs thyme
1 tsp salt
4 cups water

1. At least two hours and up to one day before you start to roast the chicken, spatchcock it. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut along each side of the backbone from the neck to the tail, and remove the backbone (reserve for stock). Spread the chicken out and push down on the breast bone until you feel it break, so that the bird lies flat.Salt and pepper all over and rub the breast with olive oil. Refrigerate again if roasting in over two hours.

2. To make a quick chicken broth for the gravy, combine the chicken back bone with 4 cups water, 1 tsp salt, 4 sprigs thyme, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped celery stock, or other vegetables you have around, and let simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and add more salt if needed. Strain and reserve the stock.

3. About one hour before baking, place a large cast iron skillet in the oven and start preheating at 500 degrees.

4. Prepare all of the root vegetables, cleaning and peeling as needed, and cut into 1 inch cubes. Toss on a rimmed sheet pan with salt and a drizzled of olive oil.

5. When the cast iron skillet is very hot, remove it from the oven and carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side down, with the legs splayed flat. Place an oven-safe plate on top of the chicken and weigh it down with a second skillet or some bricks. Roast for 15 minutes, then take the chicken out of the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Remove the weights from the chicken and transfer it to a plate. Distribute the lemon slices over the bottom of the chicken-cooking skillet, then the herbs, and then return the chicken to the skillet on top of the lemon and herbs, breast side up, and return the skillet to the oven. 

6. Place the sheet pan with root vegetables in the oven when you return the chicken.  Roast the chicken for about another 20 minutes until it is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees. Give the root vegetables an occasional turn and keep an eye on them. They will be done when they are soft through and have some char around the edges. They will likely need another 10 minutes after you take out the chicken.

7. When the chicken is done, remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a carving platter and let it rest. Transfer the lemon slices and herbs to a serving platter. Heat the skillet with the pan juices over medium low heat. Using a whisk, stir 1 Tbsp flour into the pan juices. Once the mixture thickens, gradually add 1 to 2 cups of stock while whisking until the gravy is the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, some fresh lemon juice, or a splash of sherry.

8. At this point the root vegetables should be done and you can remove them from the oven. Carve the chicken and transfer to the serving platter on top of the cooked lemon slices. Serve with the roasted vegetables and gravy. 

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