Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Menu #20 - Roast Chicken Dinner for Spring

While I was having coffee with my painter (aka Eldon) this morning, our conversation detoured from the desperate need to stain our outbuilding/workshop/wine cellar/apartment (aka The Outback)to matters of food. Of course! Eldon, an adventurous cook who loves great fresh ingredients, wanted to know my method for cooking a whole chicken. Roasting! Of course! It is one of my all-time favorite ways to cook chicken and I can't believe I haven't featured it in a menu yet.

There are so many reasons a whole roast chicken is so appealing. #1-It is easy to prepare and elegant in it's simplicity. #2-Just as easy to prepare on the grill as in the oven. #3-Leftovers make great sandwiches, especially made into chicken salad. #4-Roast chicken is the centerpiece of a perfect roasted springtime dinner!

If you are knee-deep in spring gardening muck and need an easy dinner that will cook while you get a shower at then end of the day, then this is it. Prep the chicken early in the day, pop it into the oven when you come in from the garden, and shower while it roasts. After the chicken is finished roasting, let it rest while you roast the potatoes and asparagus. Voila! Beautiful dinner that reminds you why you love spring and maybe even cleaning the garden.

Save any leftovers and toss them all together for an incredible salad the next day. One simple roast chicken = two fast and easy meals. See why it's one of my favorites? Sometimes I like to roast two at a time, just to make sure there are leftovers for chicken salad!

1 whole chicken
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh lemon
sprigs of fresh rosemary
(or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled

Preheat oven or grill to 400 degrees. Remove any giblets from the chicken and reserve for another use. Wash and dry the chicken, inside and out. Rub the chicken inside and out with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roll lemon under palm on the counter to release the juices. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the fruit about 20 times. Insert garlic, herbs, and lemon inside the cavity of the chicken and secure the flap of skin with a toothpick to keep them in place. Place chicken in a roasting pan, breast side down. Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting until the internal temperature of the chicken is 180 degrees – about an hour, depending on size. Remove chicken from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Pan drippings can be made into a sauce or gravy, if desired – be sure to add some lemon juice for extra flavor!
For a great chicken salad – use leftover chicken, toasted nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts), dried cranberries, and celery mixed with mayonnaise and a small amount of lemon zest.

1 lb. fresh asparagus spears
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim and clean asparagus as needed. Place asparagus on a heavy baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place tray in oven and roast for 8 – 10 minutes - depending on thickness of spears.


2 lbs. small thin-skinned potatoes
1 tsp. salt - divided
3 tbsp. finely chopped shallots or onions
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. whole-grain mustard
1 tbsp. white-wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry potatoes. Place whole potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Roast potatoes until fork-tender. While potatoes are roasting, whisk together shallots, both mustards, vinegar, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl, then add olive oil in a slow stream, while whisking until emulsified. While still warm, cut potatoes in half and add to vinaigrette. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and toss lightly to coat potatoes evenly with dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

SHOPPING LIST for Menu #20
Roasted Chicken
Oven-Roasted Asparagus
Warm Roasted New Potato Salad

1 whole lemon
fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic
1-2 lbs. asparagus
3 shallots or 1 small onion
1 small bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley


1 whole chicken

Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dijon mustard
Whole-grain mustard
White-wine vinegar

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Menu #19 - Chicken and Dressing Casserole

Everyone needs a really good casserole or two in her recipe repertoire, and this is a good one. You can tell because it has, not one, but two kinds of cream soup - the gold standard for casseroles. Obviously, I am not over my "late winter Southern comfort food" fixation, but I can feel a change coming with every flowering bulb and tree I see. If you've already made the shift to lighter meals for warmer weather, then just file this away until next time a casserole calls your name.


1 stick butter, melted
4 - 6 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 soup cans of chicken broth
1 small package Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing (not Stove Top)

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a flat casserole or baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly around edges.

1 lb. collard greens, cleaned and chopped
4 oz. country ham, diced
3 c. water
1 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

In a large pot, bring water, chicken broth and country ham to a boil. Add the collards, sugar and apple cider vinegar. Cook over medium heat until collards are tender - about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Serve with pepper vinegar or hot sauce.

4 - 6 sweet potatoes
brown sugar

Wash and dry sweet potatoes. Make slashes with the point of a sharp knife into the sweet potato - about 10 times. Place potatoes in microwave, spacing them evenly. Cook on high until soft when squeezed. Mix cinnamon into brown sugar in a small bowl. Serve baked sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon/brown sugar mixture.

SHOPPING LIST for Menu #19
Chicken and Dressing Casserole
Collard Greens
Baked Sweet Potatoes

collard greens – 1 lb.
sweet potatoes – 4-6

cream of chicken soup – 1 can
cream of mushroom soup – 1 can
Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing – 1 sm. pkg.
chicken broth – 1 can
apple cider vinegar
brown sugar

chicken breasts – 4-6
country ham – 4 oz.

butter – 2 sticks

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Menu #18 - Roasted Maple Salmon Dinner

It's March, a month full of basketball and weather madness, so March dinners call for a menu or two that adapt to seasonal whims. Cook this salmon in the oven if it's cold outside, or on the grill if the chill is gone. Add some wonderful warm mashed potatoes and fresh roasted asparagus, and you'll be covered, no matter what! I enjoy game after game of great college basketball, but I love salmon in the springtime most of all.

1/4 c. maple syrup (choose Grade A Medium or Dark Amber, if available)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
6 salmon fillets
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray. In a small saucepan over low heat, mix together the maple syrup, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Heat just until hot and remove from heat. Pour half of the mixture into a small bowl to use for basting, and reserve the rest for later. Pat the salmon dry. Place skin-side down on the baking sheet. Brush the salmon with the maple syrup mixture. Bake about 10 minutes, brush again with maple syrup mixture, and bake for another five minutes. Continue to baste and bake until fish flakes easily, about 20 to 25 minutes total. Can also be prepared on the grill.

4 potatoes
1 can chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
4 tbsp. butter
1 c. milk or half-and-half

Peel and cube potatoes. Place potatoes in large pan; add chicken broth and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add garlic cloves and chopped onion. Bring potatoes to a boil; reduce heat to gentle boil and cook until fork tender. Heat butter and milk over medium heat until butter is melted; set aside. Drain potatoes and liquid through strainer and return potatoes, garlic and onions to pot. Gradually add warm milk mixture to potatoes and mash until desired consistency - lumpy or smooth - is reached. Season with salt and pepper, and more butter if desired. Serve immediately, or cover and keep warm.

fresh asparagus
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette - optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim stem ends from asparagus. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with small amount of oil oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 - 12 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus spears. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette, if desired.

SHOPPING LIST for Menu #18
Roasted Maple Salmon
Garlic and Onion Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus

garlic - 1 head
onion - 1 small
potatoes - 4
fresh asparagus - big bunch for 6 servings

salmon fillets

maple syrup
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
chicken broth - 1 can
olive oil

butter - 1 stick
milk or half-and-half - 1 c.