A lot happened in 2010, but topping the list was the completion of a new cookbook I am really excited about. Inspired by the farmers’ market and my crazy cravings throughout the year, this book reads almost like a kitchen diary—it’s filled with personal anecdotes and the recipes reflect exactly how I eat throughout the changing seasons. Expect loads of kale (which I love and is easy to prepare) and no fava beans (which I also love, but are such a pain in the you-know-what that they are restaurant-food-only in my life). No title yet, but the phrase “excellent eating” might play a role, since it’s the perfect sum of my food philosophy. If there’s one thing I want to stick in people’s brains it’s that we should all be eating food that is excellently grown, prepared, and enjoyed as often as possible.
Sadly, I have to wait until the book comes out in September to share the whole thing, but I thought I would start tempting you now by posting a sample recipe from the book each month. The book is divided into twelve months of the year, so here’s one of my favorites from the January section—a crisp, succulent chicken roasted with spiced chickpeas and slivers of caramelized lemon. That shower of green herbs you see in the above photo is a zesty parsley gremolata. This dish is seriously beautiful and without a doubt qualifies as excellent eating.
Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons, and Carrots with Parsley Gremolata
When I flip through food magazines, I rarely read the recipes. I look at the photos and imagine what I think the recipe should be. Most of the time I get it pretty close but sometimes I’m way off base. This recipe is an example of that.
The photo was of a roasted chicken on a bed of chickpeas and what I thought were tiny cubes of carrot. I could taste the dish in my head. The chickpeas were crunchy and salty next to the melting, sweet carrots and everything was suffused with chicken fat from the roasting bird.
In fact, the carrots turned out to be bits of orange bell pepper (definitely not in season in January in New York) and the chickpeas were added to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking so they would stay moist and soft, without the time to absorb much in the way of chicken essence. I’m sure it was a perfectly good dish. But I liked my own idea better.
So next time I roasted a chicken, I tried it.
I placed the chicken on a rack over the chickpeas and carrot slices so all the good juices would drip down onto them. I also added slivered lemon because I love the way lemons caramelize when you roast them, and I figured the dish would need some zip. While it roasted, I chopped together a mix of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic known as gremolata (which is usually served with osso buco) to sprinkle on top. I knew it would give the whole thing some color and a little kick from the garlic, which would be welcome with all the hearty flavors.
When everything was done, the chicken was burnished, shining and fragrant, and the chickpeas, lemon bits, and carrots were caramelized and tender. It was so pretty I immediately had to take a picture, which looks nothing like the food porn photo that was its inspiration. I can’t say how the flavors compare, but my chicken was darned good – intensely lemony and very succulent and the chickpeas as tempting as bacon. Maybe one day I’ll dig up that other recipe to give it a whirl….though given how delightful this dish is, maybe not.
For the Chicken:
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch rounds
For the Gremolata:
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Quarter the lemons lengthwise and remove and discard any seeds. Thinly slice six of the lemon quarters crosswise (you will get little triangles) and in a bowl, toss them with the chickpeas, oil, 1/2 tablespoon (which equals 1 1/2 teaspoons if you don’t have a 1/2 tablespoons measure) of the garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Season the inside of the chicken cavity with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fill the cavity with remaining wedges of lemon and thyme sprigs. Rub the outside of the chicken all over with the remaining 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Rub the butter all over the skin.
4. Scatter the carrots in the bottom of the largest roasting pan you have (use the one you use for your Thanksgiving turkey). Place a wire roasting rack over the carrots; arrange the chicken, breast-side-up, on the rack. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, stirring the carrots occasionally, for 30 minutes. Scatter the chickpea mixture into the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue to roast until the chicken’s thigh juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes longer. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before carving.
5. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a bowl. Spoon the carrot-chickpea mixture onto a platter; arrange the chicken on top. Sprinkle the gremolata over the dish and serve.
- For a more traditional Sunday supper-type roasted chicken, you can skip the chickpeas and lemon bits and instead just add a pound of cubed potatoes to the pan along with the carrots. Season carrots and potatoes with salt and pepper and give them a stir once or twice while the chicken roasts. This is good with or without the gremolata.
- Some farmers’ market chickens have tough old legs – they develop actual muscle tone from the exercise they get pecking for grubs around the farm. If you suspect you’ve got one (or you know you do from prior experience with a particular farm), you might want to carve them off the chicken carcass and give them a head start in the oven before adding the breast. That way your breast won’t dry out in the long time that the legs will need to soften. To do this, carve the legs off the bird and smear those legs and the rest of the chicken carcass with the butter, salt, and seasonings. Put the legs in the pan (along with the carrots) to roast for 15 minutes before adding the carcass with the breasts (tuck the lemon and herbs inside the cavity before roasting). Overall time will be a tad longer than called for above, just keep checking to see when the juices run clear with a knife.
-Yes, you can eat the caramelized lemon slices.