Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday dinner

Have you ever seen turnips like these? I didn't know they came in shades of red other than the slightest blush of pink. They were so beautiful I took about a zillion photos of them: radish on cutting board, radish in hand, radish outside, radish on rock... I'll spare you the visual evidence, but I will add that I don't know what I'd do without Al at the Saturday farmer's market.

He's a retired biology teacher turned to farming, and he grows for people who cook. Fava beans, dried chiles for making enchilada sauce, a sweet and mild summer squash as long as my arm, escarole, figs, every herb you can imagine. (Not all at once.)

And these gorgeous turnips. They were less beautiful but very tasty in a gratin with cream and butter and Parmesan cheese. I used sage instead of the called-for savory because that's what I have in my herb beds. I also cooked it half the time called for on the stove early in the afternoon and let it just sit around until our roast chicken came out of the oven. Then I popped the gratin in to brown while the chicken rested.

W., who has a love-hate relationship with bitter vegetables (mostly hate) decided he loves turnips after trying this. I didn't tell him it's likely that it is butter, cream, and cheese he likes. The baby—who is a little weird, I'll admit—gobbled up the crispy, slightly sweet, spicy bits, in spite of the turnip tang.

Here's the chaos of our roast chicken Sunday dinner, guest starring turnip gratin, green beans with tomatoes, and a tiny baby hand waving through my wine glass.

We made our standby easy, foolproof roast chicken this week because we got a fresh little one in our CSA box. No turning, no basting, no adjustments of the oven temp, no fuss.

Easy Roast Chicken

Remove chicken from fridge an hour in advance of cooking. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Pat your chicken dry and trim of extra fat. I don't need to do this with the local free-range birds we get here (worth every cent), but for a store chicken, it is essential. Stuff the fatty bits, with a generous amount of salt and pepper, under the skin of the bird and inside the cavity. If you have a lemon, stick it with a knife a couple times and stuff it into the chicken. If your lemon isn't organic, scrub well with a coarse sponge or brush and soap.

Put chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan. For an easy side, set the chicken on a layer of chunks of potatoes and onions and unpeeled garlic cloves tossed with a little salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary. Roast for about 1 hour for a 3.5-pound bird.

(Until 170ºF in thigh supposedly, but we don't have a meat thermometer that works. We just stick a knife into the hip joint area and make sure the juices run clear and the meat is cooked.)

Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

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