I cook for others all week long -- on the job and then at home. On Sundays, I cook what I want to eat. I crave simple food, so my day doesn't center on the kitchen. I choose (mostly) ordinary ingredients that don't break the bank or require multiple store visits, but still deliver value and comfort. Ever the planner, I prepare enough food at once to ensure I have leftovers to tote for lunch and a second dinner.
More often than not, a hot oven factors into these dinners. Ditto for a sturdy, rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold dinner for four. My favorite is light-colored (to prevent over-browning of foods) and nonstick (for easy cleanup). Often called a half-sheet pan or a jelly-roll pan, the most versatile size is about 18 by 13 inches with sides about 1-inch high. No stress if yours measures slightly different.
Usually, chicken fills the pan -- cut-up parts rubbed generously with warm spices. I tuck plenty of vegetables around the parts to soak up the juices and transform into meltingly tender goodness.
Spatchcocked chickens (whole splayed-open chickens with their backbones removed) garner lots of attention on the internet for their dramatic appearance. The once-ubiquitous "cut-up whole chicken" not so much. Nor is it readily available in the supermarket. These days, drumsticks, thighs, breasts, even wings, are sold in separate packages. Mix and match as you see fit.
Whole chickens typically cost less than cut-up parts. It's easy to use kitchen shears to cut out the back bone and then a large chef's knife to split the bird in half through the breast bone. I find split chicken easier to work with than spatchcocked with all the juicy, tasty advantages of having the bones and skin. Alternatively, ask the butcher to remove the backbone and split (or quarter) the chicken.
Do save the backbones -- they make "free broth" (that is, you already paid for the bones; it costs you nothing more to make broth). I freeze them until I have two or more, then make a light chicken broth that's suitable for cooking rice, or as the base of a soup or sauce. Simply simmer the backbones (or wing tips or necks) in a small pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to a boil; reduce to low, and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Then cool and strain. Freeze in 1-cup containers for easy use later.
Brining chickens in a salt and sugar solution before roasting keeps the meat moist. A Greek yogurt marinade does this trick as well. I heavily season the yogurt with spices and garlic -- in this case, black garlic, also known as fermented garlic. It's super mild, shockingly black and aromatic. I like the "Japanese aomorie" version imported from Japan and sold at Trader Joe's. It's nicely bitter, a tiny bit sweet and easy to peel. If using ordinary fresh garlic, cut the quantity down by about one-third.
Two hours in this mix proves sufficient to add flavor and moistness to the chicken. Shake the chicken to remove most of the marinade and place the pieces on the baking sheet. I roast the chicken a few minutes to facilitate skin browning, then add the vegetables and dot the bird with a garlicky-herb butter.
When everything is tender, serve the chicken with the vegetables. A scoop of coconut rice makes quick work of any juices on your plate.
Leftover chicken can be shredded to top salads. Reheat leftover vegetables and rice together in a bowl. Serve topped with a fried egg for a delicious, fast and economical weeknight dinner.
Happy Sunday to me. And you.
BUTTER AND BLACK GARLIC ROASTED CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES
Prep: 30 minutes
Marinate: 2 hours or overnight
Cook: 1 hour
Makes: 6 servings (with leftovers, too)
Use curry powder (mild or hot) from your favorite spice store, so it is super fresh and brightly aromatic. Alternatively, use the Indian spice blend garam masala and a teaspoon of turmeric.
1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, cut up, or 1 chicken split in half with backbone removed or 3 pounds assorted chicken parts on the bone with skin
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
3 cloves black garlic or 2 large cloves fresh garlic, smashed into fine bits
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large eggplant, about 1 1/4 pounds, ends trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces.
2 zucchini or yellow squash, ends trimmed sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red, yellow or green pepper, cored, seeded, diced
Curried chive butter, see recipe
1. Rinse chicken under cool water. Pat dry with paper toweling. Put into a shallow dish.
2. Put yogurt, ginger, garlic, curry, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and cumin in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Scrape over the chicken. Turn to coat the chicken well on all sides. Refrigerate covered 2 hours or up to overnight.
3. Put the eggplant into a colander and salt it generously. Let drain about 20 minutes, then pat dry. Toss the other vegetables with the olive oil in a bowl; season with salt and have them nearby.
4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Have a large rimmed baking sheet ready. Remove chicken from marinade; shake the pieces so excess drips back into the bowl. Put the chicken in the center of the baking sheet. Discard the marinade.
5. Bake, 20 minutes. Arrange eggplant and other vegetables around the chicken in the pan. (Don't cover up the chicken.) Dot the chicken pieces and the vegetables generously with the butter. Return the pan to the oven, and bake until the chicken juices run clear, about 20 minutes for cut-up chicken and 30 minutes for chicken halves. Use tongs to transfer chicken to a platter. Let rest tented with foil. Stir vegetables in the pan to coat them with the pan juices. Return vegetables to the oven and bake until meltingly tender, about 10 minutes. Stir well, and transfer with all the pan juices to a serving dish.
6. Serve chicken with vegetables.
Nutrition information per serving: 462 calories, 21 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 146 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 51 g protein, 594 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
CURRIED CHIVE BUTTER
Put 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter into a small bowl. Mash in 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger (or refrigerated ginger paste), 2 crushed garlic cloves, 4 finely chopped green onions and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon each: curry powder and salt. Refrigerate covered up to a week. Use at room temperature to season poultry or pork, make hot garlic bread or spread on warm biscuits.
GARLICKY COCONUT RICE
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
2 cups basmati or long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can (14 ounces) lite coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro and green onions, for garnish
1. Heat oil in medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and onion; saute until rice is milky white and onion is starting to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
2. Stir in 1 cup water, coconut milk and salt. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, and cover tightly. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool in pan, off the heat, without uncovering, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.
Nutrition information per serving: 201 calories, 8 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 2 g protein, 218 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
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