Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dark Days: One-Pot Chicken

This meal starts with the roasting chicken we received in our weekly CSA package from farmer friend Brett.

This is not to be confused with the stewing hen I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Brett, being a man of many facets, deals in two kinds of chicken. One, the laying hen, needs to be cooked forever. The roaster cooks more like a conventional bird. Brett advises that it may be a bit chewier than the chicken you buy at the store. It does spend most of its time running around the farmyard pecking at things, after all.

We share our CSA subscription with friends Helen and Jeff so what we were dealing with in fact was half a bird. My visit to the farmers market over the weekend was intended to find some companion vegetables for the chicken. The dish that took shape--improvisational in the truest sense--was a one-pot affair with rice and squash on the side.

Divide the chicken into pieces and brown it in batches with extra-virgin olive oil at the bottom of a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Set the chicken aside and toss an onion, diced large, into the pot, scraping any brown bit off the bottom of the pot. When the onion has softened and browned a little, add about three cloves garlic, thinly sliced, to the pot and cook for a minute or two. Then add a large carrot and a large parsnip, peeled and sliced on an angle. Also add a large white potato and a sweet potato cut into 1-inch pieces. Place several sprigs thyme and a bay leaf or two amongst the vegetables and add two cups chicken stock and one can diced tomatoes with the juices.

Note: this dish cooks for about 1 1/2 hours on the stove top. If you like your potatoes and sweet potatoes more on the firm side, wait until 45 minutes or so into the cooking before adding them.

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer until the chicken is extremely tender and ready to fall off the bone. Originally I had thought of serving this in a bowl with the broth, like a pot au feu, but changed my mind and decided to present it more in the Hispanic manner with rice.. I drained off the cooking liquid and used it to make brown rice, making the plate a bit monochromatic and bit redundant in the starch department. A squash I had intended to cook with the chicken was impossible to peel, so I baked it in the oven and served it--mashed--on the side, mixed with some brown sugar.

This simple, rustic dinner could have come out of your grandmother's root cellar, but of course you have the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself from the best ingredients around.


Jenna said...

Very tasty... I have a roaster sitting peaceably in my freezer at the moment that I do belive its time to thaw it out and give this a whirl.

Ed Bruske said...

Jenny, I think the pasture-raised birds a particularly suited for this. They're a bit tougher, so the breast meat doesn't dry quite as bad as a conventional store-bought bird.