By Wednesday night, the leftovers were finished. The black bean chili was gone. The braised pork in star anise and ginger was gone. The refrigerator was looking bare and it was time to cook again. Wanting the warmth of a homemade meal without too much hassle, I opted for weeknight roast chicken.
What makes it perfect for the weeknight? For starters, it doesn’t use a whole chicken but instead uses pieces. This cuts down on a whole lot of roasting time. Additionally, I can make a double batch just about as easily as I make a single batch, so I can get plenty of leftovers – leftovers that can be repurposed into other dishes!
The first step when you walk into the door is to get your chicken ready. There are a variety of ways you can do this depending upon how much effort you want to put into it. My favorite way is to take a couple of cups of buttermilk, a tablespoon of salt, and a couple of hearty dashes of cayenne pepper and mix them together in a plastic zipper bag. Dump in the chicken, shake it up so the chicken is completely coated, and then set it aside to marinate. If the buttermilk brine is too much work, just sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces generously with salt and set in a bowl to give the salt a chance to work its magic.
Turn the oven on to about 350 F / 180 C. While it is heating, prepare some root veggies. I had some potatoes, carrots, and Japanese pumpkin on hand. Other tubers or root veggies would be fine, too. No need to peel potatoes and carrots if you don’t want to – a good scrub of the exterior is fine. Now, when it comes roast chicken with root veggies, the veggies are the things that can take some time. A shortcut, if you want to take it, is to boil a pan of water with some salt in it and parboil (pre-cook by boiling) the veggies. The softer things (pumpkin) only need a few minutes then pull them out. Potatoes need more time and carrots could use eight minutes or so.
Put the parboiled veggies in a bowl or save yourself the washing and put them directly into a baking dish. This is a good time to throw in some sliced onions and/or some whole cloves of garlic, if you would like. Add a generous pour of extra virgin olive oil, another sprinkling of salt, several turns of the pepper mill, and then you can add some herbs, too. Rosemary makes the kitchen smell marvelous and some thyme (I happened to have fresh on hand) is really nice, too. Stir the veggies a few times so they are coated with the oil, salt, etc.
If you haven’t parboiled the veggies, you should go ahead and put the dish into the oven and give them about fifteen minutes head start on the chicken, covered with aluminum foil.
If you marinated the chicken, take it out of the buttermilk, rinse the pieces off, and pat dry with paper towels. If you didn’t use the buttermilk, you can just pat dry with the towels. Add some fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of the olive oil, and then place on top of the veggies with the skin side of the chicken facing up, and bake, covered with foil, for about twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, remove the foil and continue cooking until the chicken is nicely browned, about another twenty to twenty-five minutes.
Check the veggies with a knife – they should be cooked to the tenderness you like. I like mine to still have a little firmness to them but not too much. Check the chicken with a thermometer – you’re looking for an internal temperature of 165 F. Pull the dish out and let it rest for about five minutes before serving. There you have it – a healthy and easy weeknight dinner.