Looking north from Fire Island

Looking north from Fire Island
Continuing the cooking articles I write every summer

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Roasted Root Veggies with Chicken Thighs

It always happens this way. My fridge had root vegetables, carrots, beets with their greens, and some butternut squash. I remembered a side dish I had at Spotted Pig. The roasted beets were near perfect but for being over peppered and over-salted. I also saw Jamie Oliver do something similar, but his way was more to my rustic tastes. Try this, and please vary it with other winter vegetables.

Wash, scrub very well, two times, a bunch of beets, greens attached. Scrape a few huge thick carrots using the back of your knife. I think peelers take away too much flavor. Peel a butternut squash, cut the carrots and squash into large, 1 ½ inch chunks. Preheat the oven to 425, moisten the all the vegs with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt, black pepper and red chili flakes. Use your hands to toss everything around to coat them evenly. Now, into the oven they all go. After around half an hour, lower the temp to 325f. Test them for tenderness. The point of a chef’s fork should easily pierce the thickest part of one of the vegetables. If the rest seem overcooked, don’t worry, they’ll be delish. Click on the photo for a better view.

There were also a few skinless chicken thighs I wanted to deal with. Thighs rock, you can keep the white meat. I made a lateral slice on each thigh from the edge perpendicular to the bone, a slice from each side, he better to expose the meat to the marinade, and cook faster. I poured a cup and a half of buttermilk into a bowl, added a hefty amount of coarse salt, a shot of hot sauce, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne, a few grinds of ground pepper, ground nutmeg, and gave it a stir. I marinated the chicken in the buttermilk for two hours, turning them several times.

The idea of the extra salt was to brine the chicken. It gives chicken --and pork, a marvelous juicy taste. I set a nonstick pan on the range, and placed the chicken in the hot pan. Lots of water appeared when the buttermilk separated, which I poured off. Then into the oven went the pan to cook along with the veggies. I drizzled a few drops of oil on the chicken.

I can tell you the chicken was perfectly moist and flavorful, needing no frying oil or coating. Due to the caramelization of the natural sugars in the vegetables, they were sweet, even without any added sugar. The colors were Technicolor, the flavors real and intense. There was a bonus. The greens almost dissolved in my mouth, leaving only the flavor of the peppers and salt. It was an unusual experience, not unlike my first potato chip.

It was a guilt free, totally satisfying meal. I looked out the window to see snow falling on Greenwich Village for the first time this season. Wood fire smoke was rising from ancient chimneys perfuming the air with a nostalgic, small town scent, just like where I grew up in Massachussetts. A blue-tinted moon was shining through icy thin clouds. It felt good to be here, and to have this hearty dinner.

1 comment:

RuthieD said...

I was looking for some dinner inspiration and yum! This seems just what Iw as thinking of...but the buttermilk I wouldn't have! thanks.