February 26, 2008

Simple (roast) chicken and (sweet) potatoes

Last night I had my friend Peggy (the culinary pioneer --see my archive) in town for one night before she headed down South to visit family before coming back up to Nashville next week. What to cook for a woman who travels the world in search of exotic food and connects others with new cuisines and cultures for a living?

I decided to keep it simple. Simple, good quality ingredients never disappoint, even IF you just got back from a culinary tour of Thailand and Laos! So I made a nice roasted chicken, served with a Moroccan sweet potato salad and sauteed kale. I am not usually a whole bird roaster, but I do it once in a while and sometimes it's dry or bland. So this time I thought I'd do some research on ways to make it moist and flavorful. I read that seasoning the bird a full 24 hours in advance and leaving it in the fridge until an hour before you're going to cook it works. So I used a seasoning mix that I picked up from Italy one time which has salt, pepper, rosemary, sage and garlic in it. I rubbed that all over the bird, and inside I stuffed some fresh parsely, sage, rosemary, half a lemon and some garlic cloves. It was a fresh, organic chicken from my neighborhood market, The Turnip Truck. I roasted it with some veggies and sweet potatoes alongside it in the pan, for 1 hour. I have to say, it was delicious. One of my guests said it was the best chicken he'd ever eaten. I just know it had lots of flavor and was truly moist.

My Moroccan sweet potato salad (which I found in Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food) had turnips thrown in there too, cubed, roasted for an hour in the oven, then seasoned with cumin, turermic, ginger and saffron threads, fresh parsley and lots of good olive oil drizzled over it before serving. The flavors were a nice complement to the chicken. The kale was just an afterthought - sautéed up with garlic and chili flakes, a drizzle of red wine vinegar to finish. Very nutritious and wintery.

For dessert, as I can't seem to have a dinner without making a dessert these days, I made a pear maple "johnnycake". This is usually more akin to a pancake, but with cornmeal added. But mine was more like a cornmeal cake. I cooked the pears in butter, sprinkled with all-spice, then transferred them to a cake pan, poured the cornmeal batter over them and baked it. I found this recipe in a magazine. It was good, not overly sweet and a little crumbly, and I served it with some creme fraiche alongside and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. No one complained.

Peggy brought a great wine from Selvapiana in Tuscany. mmmmm. It was great to see her and to have her over for dinner for the first time in my new house. I've had so many amazing dinners at her house in Colo. and it was great to be able to return the gift.


  1. what a wonderful dinner. i've been roasting my chickens via the zuni cafe technique lately and it has been incredible. crisp as can be on the oitside and totally moist on the inside. the breast meat is so good and the wings are so crispy!

    isn't alice water's latest book just incredible? the art of simple food was worth every penny i soent on it and i will use it for ever!

  2. Claudia, what is the zuni cafe method? I am not familiar. I am going to make stock with the bones--got any suggestions?

    I agree about the book. LOVE this book and how it's so useful and not flashy. The book itself and it's style epitomizes her take on food, doesn't it? Almost every time I need to look up a vegetable or a technique, she's got it and it's so clear and simple.