Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms
I am currently recovering from wedding number two of a three-week triple-header, and it’s not the prettiest. I’m weak, I’m bloated, and to be perfectly honest, I’m seriously concerned about my brain cell count.
The past two wedding weekends have been those of Logan’s best friends. As my super popular roommate was in both wedding parties, I was happily left to amuse myself for long periods of time amongst groups of mostly strangers. Luckily, small talk is my third best wedding strength, after curling my hair and being overdressed (Logan likes to tell me things are black tie when they actually aren’t), so I totally killed it.
As you may know, wedding small talk usually includes what I like to call “The Big Three”: Where are you from? How do you know the bride or groom? What do you do? Personally, I’ve found that my answer to the last question excites people the most. Everyone loves food, so some peeps get pretty amped when I say that I’m a blogger/private chef. Naturally, I love this.
However, I’ve realized over the past few weekends that I need to come up with some standard answers for the common career follow-up questions, especially, “What’s your favorite thing to cook?” I got asked this question at least ten times at last weekend’s wedding, and I’m ashamed to say that I regularly fumbled my response. I mean, I like to cook a lot of things, but I’ve never really given much thought to picking a favorite. I impulsively said Mac and Cheese once, but that answer didn’t go over well, and the asker seemed skeptical of my legitimacy after hearing me state such a generic dish. (He has clearly never tried this recipe).
Determined not to let down future adoring wedding audiences with lackluster responses to their small talk inquiries, I have been giving some serious thought to my favorite recipes and “signature dishes.” After a little soul-searching, I’m happy to report that I love to roast chickens. It may not be the sexiest answer, but it’s the truth. Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food, and I make a mean one. Fact.
I actually roasted my very first chicken during my third week at Le Cordon Bleu. I remember it vividly because that lesson involved a lot of firsts. As with all meat and fish at LCB, I received my chicken in its “purest form,” meaning that the bird was still rocking a fierce set of claws and several feathers. Oh, and all of its organs, and its long, floppy neck. I was not a fan.
The first order of business was to remove the aforementioned feathers by using a blowtorch on the bird’s skin, which did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. Long story short, the student across from me almost went up in flames when I accidentally powered up the blowtorch on the highest setting while pointing it straight at her. There was a pretty serious language barrier involved, but I’m guessing the things that she shrieked at me in Japanese were not overly complimentary.
After singeing the feathers (along with parts of both the chicken’s and my skin), it was time to truss the bird. For those of you who aren’t familiar, trussing is essentially sewing the chicken into a nice little package to close the cavity and keep the breasts from drying out. In other words, it is a nightmare, and it took me several tries to tie that bird up.
When it came time to actually roast the chicken, I thought I had it in the bag. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, covered it in a ridiculous amount of butter, and waited for the oven to work its magic. When my timer went off, I was practically bursting with anticipatory excitement. The skin wasn’t as beautifully browned as I’d hoped, but c’est la vie. I let the bird rest for 10 minutes as instructed and anxiously sharpened my knife while I waited to carve my masterpiece.
As you might have guessed, things did not go as planned. When I went to remove the thighs from my chicken, I discovered that the entire bird was pretty much raw. All around me, students were carving perfectly cooked poulets rotis, as I stared at the uncooked mess in front of me. While my first inclination was to cry and/or pound all the cooking wine in the kitchen’s cabinets, I somehow managed to keep it together.
I quickly realized that my situation was a result of my oven not heating properly. (This was a hazard in some of the kitchens at LCB, but I’m not convinced that it wasn’t an act of sabotage by the student that I had nearly lit on fire. Revenge at LCB was real, people.) By some act of God, there were 30 minutes left before plating, and I managed to shove my chicken in the oven of another student (that I had not almost maimed) for the remainder of the class. Crisis averted.
I survived the chef’s critique that afternoon with only a few standard insults, mostly regarding my messy work station (standard) and slightly botched carving job (understandable given the circumstances). Overall, roasting that chicken was awkward, messy, and emotionally charged, but ultimately a great learning experience. You never forget your first.
Since that day almost three years ago, I have proudly roasted countless chickens in a variety of ways. Fortunately for everyone, American chickens tend to be sold without their feathers, so I am not forced to wield a blowtorch very often, and I usually skip the annoying trussing step in favor of stuffing the cavity with lemon, onions or herbs. Honestly, I’ve come to find the process of roasting a chicken quite comforting, and there’s nothing more satisfying (or impressively domestic) than pulling a beautiful, juicy roast chicken out of your oven.
I’ve posted a couple variations of roast chicken on this blog, most recently the Beer Butt Roast Chicken, but I figure you can never have too many roast chicken recipes. Plus, as it’s my favorite thing to cook, I felt the need to spread the joy of chicken roasting amongst all of you. So, without further ado, I present my most recent roast chicken: Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms.
This recipe is an excellent basic to have in your repertoire. The chicken is roasted with a slightly sweet and tangy balsamic dressing and stuffed with garlic, lemon and fresh basil, which keeps the meat incredibly tender and juicy. Served with a “sauce” of roasted baby bella mushrooms, heirloom cherry tomatoes and red onions, this chicken has a slight Italian flair and manages to be satisfying, yet still surprisingly light.
I promise that Balsamic Roast Chicken won’t require more than 15 minutes of hands-on prep time, and it’s guaranteed to make you feel like a domestic god/goddess. I recommend serving it over some simple, peppery arugula to keep things light, but it would also be delicious with cauliflower puree or some cream cheese mashed potatoes. This is the perfect meal for fall entertaining, and leftovers are delicious as a cold salad or in a sandwich with some melted mozzarella cheese. Happy chicken roasting, friends! You’re gonna love it.
Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms: (Serves 4)
1 3½ pound roasting chicken
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons honey
Fresh ground pepper
1 lemon, cut into quarters half
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cups baby Bella mushrooms, quartered
½ red onion, thickly sliced (I suggest cutting the half onion into sixths length-wise)
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes (or regular cherry tomatoes)
4 cups baby arugula for serving
Preparing your Balsamic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms:
-Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
-In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic, olive oil, minced garlic and honey. Season generously with salt and fresh ground pepper. (Don’t be shy with the salt, peeps.) Set aside briefly while you prepare your chicken.
-Rinse your chicken with cold water, making sure that the cavity is empty and clean, and pat it dry. Place the lemon quarters, smashed garlic cloves and the basil (reserving 3-4 leaves to place under the skin) into the cavity.
-Use your fingers to carefully separate the chicken skin from the breasts, being careful not to rip the skin. This is not that hard I promise. Pour 1½ tablespoons of the balsamic dressing under the skin and rub it over the breasts. Arrange a few basil leaves under the skin as well. Enjoy scary raw chicken picture for the visual learners…
-Place the chicken in a roasting pan or a cast-iron skillet and pour 2/3 of the remaining dressing over the chicken. Use your hands to rub it all over the chicken’s skin. (Kinda messy and gross, but necessary). Turn the chicken on its side and transfer it to the oven.
-While the chicken is in the oven, place the tomatoes, mushrooms and onions in a large bowl and add the remaining dressing. Toss to coat and set aside.
-Turn the chicken breast side up and baste it with some more juice. Surround the chicken with the tomatoes, mushrooms and onions and tent loosely with foil. (This chicken tends to darken quickly thanks to the balsamic).
-While your beautiful balsamic chicken is resting, place the pan with the vegetables and juices over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced and thickened slightly, about ten minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
-Serve chicken warm topped with tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. I like to serve mine over some fresh arugula, but you do you.
Congratulations! There’s nothing more domestic than roasting a chicken, friends.
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