Remember last week when I said I was forcing the season by cooking spring-like dinners? Scratch that. My plan didn’t work. A late spring sleet/snow/freezing rain storm is what greeted me one morning when I awoke late last week. Continuous temperatures in the mid-40s and 50s is not my idea of warm weather. While the purple and yellow crocuses have popped, the daffodils are sadly looking up for some warmth and sun. A visit to the garden tonight proved the chives are hardy and tall enough that I may be able to snip some soon. Perhaps I will have summertime recipes in time for May.
So in the meantime, instead of searching for a grill to buy for warmer weather, I’ve turned on the oven again. As I’ve said before, roasted chicken is my number one comfort food, and it was a perfect way to recuperate after a long weekend away from home with friends talking about books and literature. And those roasted root veggies I said were going to wait until next year? I found some beets in the vegetable bin and decided to make a much-lauded side dish from the eater of the house. This is also a really easy dish to make if you have company like we did; very little prep work, so you can spend time with your guests instead of being in the kitchen.
I worked in a family-run Italian restaurant for several years and along with the restaurant, we also would serve big parties. Chicken and mostaccioli was the standard for these, and I loved the smell of the chicken when it was roasting. So their spices and herbs are my go-to seasonings whenever I roast chicken, with a few tweaks here and there. And you can use this whether it’s chicken breasts, thighs, or a whole chicken like I made for this evening.
After rinsing and patting the chicken dry with a paper towel, rub it with some olive oil. Add freshly ground pepper, salt, cinnamon, and herbes de provence. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Cook until the thermometer reads 165 degrees. That’s it! Some chopped fresh garlic or garlic powder also is a great addition. The cinnamon is the secret spice, and I love that first roast chicken in the fall served with homemade applesauce. It’s perfection.
The beets are equally easy. I prefer to roast my beets instead of steaming them, but you can do either. For me, roasting the beets in the oven with the chicken means I’m doing two things at once. I cut off the tops and bottoms, scrub, and place in a pie pan with a little bit of water. Cover with foil and roast for about an hour or so. You’ll know they are done when you poke the middle of the beet with a paring knife; it should be soft, yet have some resistance. When cooled, I peel off the skin and dice into chunks. Add a few dashes of a light vinegar (I like white wine), a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and a few dashes of dried dill weed (fresh would be wonderful if you have it), and salt and pepper. Now mind you, the color of this resembles Pepto-Bismol, I’m not going to lie. It is gorgeous, a big bowl with deep fuchsia beets, but it does look a bit odd. (Hence, why no picture; they all turned out horrible and no one would want to make it!)
Served with last week’s radish salad and some shaved brussels sprouts cooked in a little bit of bacon grease, this was a lovely and comforting dinner for some weary yet very happy travelers!
Author’s note: You may find me disappear for one week in the very near future, but have no fear, I’ll be back! Instead of taking a week off for holidays, I like to take my birthday week off as a present to myself. But since that time has come and gone, I have written myself an IOU.