I know – I’m sorry – Duendesday slipped right by in the busy and bustle of online meetings yesterday. I can tell you she’s developing a new comic series of Bunnies (and a comic relief duck princess) and the perspectives are hilarious. Today she wants to cuddle up in our animal onesies (no, J doesn’t have one – he refuses, though the child is deeply offended. I get to be the Mama Llama) and watch a rainy day movie and eat popcorn. Let it be.
Food – I hear the world is baking. That sounds lovely. What’s thrilling about sourdough or fermentation, in particular, is that everyone will bring their own funk to the table. It is your own terroir – your bacteria, fueled by the air and moisture in your space and environment. I also hear there is a bit of flour shortage! Though not here in Maine – we love to use Maine Grains (though for bulk baking we stick to King Arthur; we’re just poor country folk up here, though with a consideration of localish/B corp/ Cooperatives) and Skowhegan is seeing a big surge of business which is great. Maine grown, Maine stone ground: bring grain back to Maine. Brilliant.
But that’s not what I’m offering here today. Today it’s a classic Roast Chicken (see, it’s almost like Duendesday!) and Ottolenghi’s Sweet Potato Gratin. Simple and really sexy. The latter is not adapted very much at all – because it’s amazing just the way it is. A lovely arty friend gave me the cookbook and it’s got some real keepers in it – this one is easy and decadent, all at the same time. As far as the Roast Chicken goes – this method is perfect, every time. I’ve tried many methods, and though this one seems a bit more ‘maintenance’ (it’s not, really, there are worse), I’ve never been disappointed, it’s adapted from a Food52 recipe I’ve been using for years (the original adds lavender at the last timing stage, and it’s wonderful, especially in early Fall when you can still squeeze in the last of the pink wine and salads with butter lettuces).
3-4lb whole chicken (we use our own free range frozen chickens – need one? Let us know! They aren’t as ‘plump’ as store bought because they run around and are of a breed that can fend for themselves a bit, a little wilder than the hybrids specifically built for meat – but I find them very tasty), thawed
Salt & Black Pepper
(on other days without the Gratin, also use Soy Sauce/Tamari/Amino Acids for rub)
Garlic Powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub chicken all over with olive oil, salt & pepper, and put in roaster pan/dutch oven. When oven is hot, roast chicken (no lid/cover) for 20 min. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR (this is very important, it is the ‘secret’ ingredient of this recipe) – turn down oven to 325 degrees and roast for 45min. After the 20 min high roast, then the 45 min secret roast, it’s at this point you can add herbs sprinkled on top or 2″cubed potatoes tossed in olive oil/s &p, then roast for another 45 min. Any time after the initial 45 you can check on, peek at, temp your chicken (insert thermometer in the deepest part of the thigh, though with my little guys I generally try one or two points, 165-170 degrees). When the chicken temps correctly, remove, cover and let sit 10-15 min (with slicing time will equal the 25m in below while the sweet tatas cook, see below). Slice, pick, eat, enjoy (sometimes we just serve it whole for the 3 of us, somewhere at the 30 min mark we throw in halved asparagus spears, make flatbreads and eat ‘family style’).
Don’t forget to toss your chicken bones in some water for broth or in the freezer for broth later!
Sweet Potato Gratin
6 Med Sweet Potatoes, sliced into(unpeeled) 1/8″ discs
5Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh sage (or 3 Tbsp crumbled dry, need some?), though thyme or rosemary would be equally yummy
6 Garlic cloves, crushed/minced
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 cup Heavy Cream
If making with the chicken, you will add this dish covered at the second 45 min. mark (when you’re allowed to open the oven), and uncover to finish cooking when you remove the chicken, raising the temp up to 400 degrees.
If making separate – Preheat oven to 400 degrees and proceed. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, rub sweet potato discs with olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic, and herb. Then collect them and stand them up in tight stacks “they should fit together quite tightly so you get the parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish”. Cover the dish with foil and Roast approx 45 min. Uncover, pour cream evenly over the potatoes and roast another 25 min. Fork or slide knife into potatoes to make sure they are tender and soft. Enjoy. They are delectable, and even magickal the next day with a crispy piece of sourdough toast and an egg.