Monday, June 18, 2012

Chicken Redux

I have been so extremely spoiled with foods lately. With the littles being out of town for a couple of weeks, the Mr. and I were left with a surplus of money jingling around in the food budget. After all, we're only feeding 2... not 4-5. We've taken that opportunity to enjoy the luxury of shopping at Durham Farmers' Market for the last two weekends. A girl could get used to this! Fresh garlic, a million (okay, maybe 20) different cuts of bison, purple carrots, fresh sweet corn, juicy blackberries that burst with sweetness in your mouth. Le sigh. 

But, driving to Durham takes us over an hour and a half. Our car inhales gas like it's on its dying breath. Once the littles come back, we'll be lucky to get this trip in once a month. Even then, it will one rife with complaints. "Are we there YET?" "This is SO boring." "When can we leave?" Grrrrrr. Well, my dear market... it was nice while it lasted. We shall make our way back soon. I hope.

I will admit... this last weekend, we discovered the best market treat ever: free-range chicken. I am all about the concept and benefits from eating free-range animals. But, aside from the bison... I'd never really gotten my hands on any free-range meats. Probably because things like a 3.75 lb chicken sell for $13.88. That isn't the most feasible pricing for a single-income military family. And, I was skeptical that it would really taste any different than a store-bought chicken. Boy, was I wrong

What does it taste like? Tastes like chicken! Har har har. Not funny? Okay. Sorry. But, this is what chicken was meant to taste like. It is so moist, so robust and flavorful, so... chickeny! Sure, it's not affordable for everday consumption. But, trust me... you have to try it at least once! You'll be hooked! Promise. We'll continue to buy it as often as we can. And, when we move to Kentucky in the fall... we're raisin' us some chickens!

My favorite way to eat chicken? Roasted. With roasted veggies.

Roasted Chicken & Vegetables
1 (3-5 lb) chicken
2 Vidalia onions, quartered
1 head garlic, cloves and skin removed
Carrots, halved lengthwise, then again width-wise
Potatoes, cut into 1" chunks
Shallots, quartered
Fresh thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Place the quartered onions around the edge of a cast iron skillet. Place the chicken in the middle. Stuff the chicken with thyme, and place a couple of sprigs on top. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil; sprinkle with kosher salt, and pepper.

Roast in the oven at 450* for 1-1.5 hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 180*.  Remove from the oven, and let rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

For the veggies... spray the bottom of a baking sheet lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Carrots. We used these gorgeous purple carrots we found at the market. They had the sweetest, most earthy flavor after being roasted. Potatoes. We mixed some Purple Majesty potatoes with some buttery Yukon Golds. Garlic. Of course, fresh from the market. Shallots. Well, I can't say enough good things about shallots. I cook with them so very often. Toss those veggies onto the baking sheet. Throw on a couple sprigs of thyme. Drizzle veggies with olive oil; sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast at 450* for 30 minutes. I put the veggies in about 20 minutes before the chicken is done. That way, they're still roasting away while the chicken is settling on the counter.

Look at those crisp, roasted veggies!

You think the roasted chicken itself is yummy? Wait until you taste what we're gonna' do with the left-overs! Usually, the birds we cook are much bigger than the 3.75 pounder we got at the market. So, we typically have a good bit of meat left-over. But, between me and the Mr... we had to exhibit some self-restraint not to devour the whole thing so that I had enough for my signature Rustic Chicken Salad Sandwich!

Rustic Chicken Salad Sandwich
1 1/2 C pre-cooked chicken, shredded
1 Tbs spicy brown mustard
1 Tbs horseradish sauce (I always use Boar's Head)
1 tsp dried thyme
3 left-over roasted garlic cloves, mashed
Left-over roasted shallots
Cheese slices (I use pepper jack because we're all about the spice around here. Swiss or Muenster would be nice too)
Fresh baby spinach
A good loaf of artisan bread (or loaf of French bread)

Start by mixing the chicken salad. To the shredded chicken, add the mustard, horseradish sauce, thyme, and mashed garlic cloves. Mix until just combined; set aside.

Slice the bread into 1" thick pieces; toast them. Assemble the sandwich by spooning a generous amount of the chicken salad onto on slice of bread. Add shallots and spinach atop the chicken. Finish off with your cheese slices, then the other piece of bread. 

These sandwiches are so rustic, and yummy! They always remind me of fall, but are just as tasty in the summer! And, they go quite nicely with a side of sweet potatoe fries along with some horseradish sauce to dip 'em in! 

Back on Wednesday with Next Food Network Star Challenge play-along Episode #3. Still playing catch-up!

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