Contributed by Bryce Lambert
There’s little that’s more essential in a chef’s repertoire than a well roasted chicken. It’s easy, classic, inexpensive, and feeds a family as well as it feeds diners in a hip bistro. And considering the small amount of effort that goes into it, a neatly trussed chicken presents exceedingly well. But, like turkey at Thanksgiving, it’s the sides to a chicken dinner that make it memorable. I have fond childhood memories of Sunday dinners with canned Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, Stove Top stuffing, and those Pillsbury crescent rolls that come in a tube. Ah, how times have changed.
There’s a lot of ways to cook a chicken–un-stuffed, stuffed, vertically, horizontally–but roasting the chicken on top of a bed (or natural roasting rack) of vegetables is the only one that leaves you with a delicious side dish of roasted veggies soaked in the chicken’s juices. Where stuffing tends to dry out a bird, this makes sure those savory drippings don’t go to waste. I used a large Pillivuyt roasting pan from Didriks that’s perfectly sized for a few generous helpings of vegetables and a 4-5 lbs. bird. And, when it was time to do the dishes, this porcelain dish was several times easier to wash than several “non-stick” roasting pans I’ve owned.
A Trip to the Market
This meal really began with a trip to the Cambridge Winter Farmers’ Market, Cambridge’s greatest wintertime resource for the home cook. Every Saturday between 10am-2pm from January to April, farmers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, and other small vendors gather at the Cambridge Community Center. In these months when the more popular outdoor markets are long closed and grocers like Whole Foods have substantially extended the reach of their supply chains, it’s a true pleasure to know that fresh, local produce is so close by. Some of my current favorites include Apex Orchards‘ delicious apples, Valicenti Organico‘s fresh ravioli (try the Toasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins & Grana Padano!), Wolf Meadow Farms‘ Italian Cheeses (try the fresh milky Primo Sale!), as well as hearty winter root vegetables and braising greens from farms like Red Fire Farm.
I highly suggest you go. Visit cambridgewinterfarmersmarket.com for more information and to see who will be there.
A quick stop at the market left me with celery root, parsnips, turnips, and an earthy rainbow of beautiful potatoes: red, blue, purple, and yellow. Along with an onion and carrot (because they caramelize so deliciously when roasted), I cubed the vegetables and layered them across the bottom of the Pillivuyt roaster. They’ll shrink quite a bit, so don’t be shy. A little salt and pepper (I use a great course pink Himalayan sea salt that Cambridge Naturals sells in bulk) and a drizzle of olive oil and the vegetable bed is ready for the chicken. Continue Reading