Thursday, March 3, 2011

no frills roast chicken with mushrooms and greens


Roasting a chicken for the first time is one of those memorable rites of passage, right up there with passing your driver’s test or getting the keys to that first apartment.  The task is deceptively simple, yet many of us seldom attempt it.  It’s a shame, really, considering the innate pleasure of carving into the irresistibly golden crisp skin of a still hot chicken to reveal mouth-watering, succulent meat practically begging to be eaten.  Not to mention, the way it fills the house with a most intoxicating aroma.  It is, in my book, the ultimate comfort food.

I will never forget my first stab at roasting a chicken.  At the time, I was engaged to be married, with a brand new cookbook in hand.  Friends of ours were joining us for dinner and I was eager to impress.  We lived three blocks from the Pike Place Market, where I hastily gathered ingredients after coming home from work.  The recipe itself was not difficult but required a great deal of chopping and preparation.  I sweated and fretted as the time for our guests to arrive approached and dinner was nowhere near completion.

Round about 10 pm, we finally sat down to a tantalizing spread including my now infamous first roast chicken served with a trio of caramelized carrots, baby red potatoes and cippolini onions, and a bowlful of piping hot buttermilk biscuits.  Fortunately, our friends overlooked my poor planning and raved about the chicken.  I joked that they were too hungry to know the difference.  But truly, it was an excellent roast chicken and I have prepared it countless times since that fateful night. 

For years, I closely adhered to the original recipe.  Only recently have I veered from the exact specifications and viewed it as more of a template to be applied to various incarnations of roast chicken.  I’m not sure how I happened up the following rendition but it is most definitely a keeper.  Plump, juicy roasted mushrooms offset earthy, briny chicken-infused greens and the roast chicken itself is a force to be reckoned with, all crackly on the outside and tender chickeny goodness within.

Don’t be afraid to take this recipe and run with it.  No one says you have to serve chicken with braised greens and mushrooms.  Think of roast chicken as a blank canvas, awaiting your every whim.  And I encourage you to to buy free-range, natural, organic chicken whenever possible.  I get mine from Rain Shadow Meats, in Seattle’s Melrose Market.  Their birds are fresh, not frozen, and come from local farms, such as Mad Hatcher and Stokesberry.  Over the years, I have roasted everything from previously frozen birds to run of the mill non-organic chickens and I can personally attest to the superior, amped up taste of a fresh, natural, organic product.  Besides, not only does it tastes better, it’s better for you, too.

Happy roasting!


no frills roast chicken with mushrooms and greens

DSC_1660 - Copy 

serves 4


1 – 3 pound free-range whole chicken 
olive oil
coarse sea salt (such as Maldon or fleur de sel)
freshly ground black pepper
20 – 25 whole crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed but not removed
1 large shallot, finely diced
4 bunches dinosaur or lacinato kale, ribs removed, torn in 1” x 3” strips
apple cider vinegar



Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Rinse the chicken in cold water and remove any giblets from the cavity.  Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.  Trim fat around the neck, as needed.  Using your fingers, reach under the skin covering the breast and create two pockets between the skin and meat on either side of the connective tissue separating the breasts.  With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in each of the legs.  Drizzle approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pockets of skin covering the breast meat.  Sprinkle some sea salt in there, as well.  Rub additional olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) on the rest of the bird and in the cavity.  Rub generously all over with sea salt and a touch of ground black pepper, lightly massaging the salt and pepper into the meat.  Truss the bird, if desired.  I find trussing a tad fussy and generally omit this step.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven or roasting pan, on medium high heat.  Once the oil is near smoking hot, place the chicken breast side down in the pan.  Sear for 3 – 5  minutes.  Brown each wing side by propping the bird against the walls of the pan for 3 minutes per side.  Roast uncovered, breast side up for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and continue roasting.

While the chicken is in the oven, place the mushrooms on a dry towel and rub gently with the edges of the towel to remove any dirt or debris.  Next, arrange them evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 – 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and season with coarse sea salt.  Toss to coat.  Place the pan on the rack below the chicken for 25 – 30 minutes, until mushrooms have reached a deep brown and are no longer seeping juices.  Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside. 


About 10 minutes before the chicken has finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven.  Using tongs, carefully place the chicken on a large dinner plate.  Cover with foil and set aside.  Place the roasting pan on a burner on high heat.  Add the chopped shallot to the pan, stirring until the shallots are soft and beginning to color.  Add the greens in batches, as space permits.  Stir in a splash of cider vinegar.  Season with salt to taste. 

Place the chicken back in the roasting pan right atop the braised greens.  Pour in any juices accumulated on the plate.  Scatter the roasted mushrooms around the bird.  Return to the oven and continue roasting for 10 –15 additional minutes.  Cooking time depends on the size of the bird, although the general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound.

To serve, place the chicken on a large platter over a bed of braised greens and mushrooms.  Serve with simply roasted fingerling potatoes and whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

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