Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Roast Chicken with Baby Artichokes

When I was young, my family spent some years living in the States and some years in Scotland. When we lived in the States, we spent 3 or 4 months a year back at our cottage in Fife.

The cottage was a little chilly – heated by a wood burning stove that was cozy but never quite kept out the damp of the North Sea. We wore sweaters indoors for much of the summer, and we had roasts at least once a week. During the first few days we were back each May, we would inevitably have a roast chicken, and silence would fall over the table.

“Mmmm. Real chicken,” one of my parents would say. And it did truly taste like an entirely different dish than supermarket chicken States-side. Even as a child I knew that. The flavor was heaven: warm, heady, and golden – full of comfort and health.

A lot of people ask me how a childhood in Scotland left me fascinated in Mediterranean cuisine, and this is part of the story. My parents were always raving: “Mr. Carr dug these potatoes this morning; this lamb came down from Drumrack Farm yesterday; I got this sole from Alan Mackie at the Pittenweem harbor today.” Eating like this is how I learned to love fresh, local, unadulterated food, which is just what Mediterranean cooking exalts.

This chubby little bird from Dines Farms in the Catskills was slaughtered on Saturday, and we ate it on Monday night. The flavor was extraordinarily rich and reminiscent of those birds we enjoyed years ago in Scotland. I decided to roast some olives, garlic, and baby artichokes around it with a splash of white wine and plenty of olive oil.

In the Northern Mediterranean, artichokes are in season from September to May, and baby artichokes are tender and therefore infinitely easier to clean than the larger variety. The combination was straightforward and let the fresh, pasture-raised chicken shine. All it needed was a peppery salad of wild arugula and balsamic vinaigrette to round out a sumptuously simple weeknight dinner.

Serves 2 – 4

1 3 – 4 lb chicken
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
red or white wine vinegar
8 baby artichokes
1 head garlic, cloves separated, skins on
¼ cup black, brine-cured olives
½ bottle white wine
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Rinse the chicken and then pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan and season the chicken cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Quarter one of the lemons and stuff the quarters into the cavity. Drizzle the skin of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.

Fill a medium bowl with cold water and pour in a few good glugs of vinegar. Pull the tough outer leaves off of a baby artichoke. Trim the stalk to about an inch in length. Cut off the top half of the leaves. Then cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the tiny choke. Slice the artichoke halves in half lengthwise again, and put all 4 quarters into the acidulated water immediately to prevent browning. Repeat with the remaining 5 artichokes.

Scatter the garlic cloves and olives around the chicken. Add the artichoke quarters and drizzle with more olive oil. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Pour 1 cup of wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Place the chicken in the oven. After the first ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 F and roast for 20 minutes a pound.

When the juices run clear and the thigh moves loosely from the breast, set the bird aside on a carving board (preferably wood) and tent with tinfoil. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Place the pan on the top of the stove over high heat. Pour the rest of the white wine into the hot pan and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half again. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the pan reduction ladled over them.


Anonymous said...

I am so on board. I spent a lot of time with family in Liguria when I was young, and the food was all local. This is exactly the sort of thing we ate. Thanks for the recipe!
- Seattle

Anonymous said...

I'm doubling this recipe for a dinner party this weekend. It looks divine...
- Houston, TX

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge artichoke fan and I cannot wait to try this recipe!!

elisabeth said...

here here! seven years later i still talk about how everything i cooked in paris tasted better, and it was almost certainly the "real" chicken, which was most often on the menu. a chicken curry that i make now, in the same way and with the same ingredients -- lots of creme fraiche! -- isn't nearly as yummy.
awesome to meet you a few weeks back!
xo, lis

elisabeth said...

oops: "hear, hear" i meant to say. it's past my bedtime.

Anonymous said...

I made this last night, and it was delicious! Next time I will add some leeks and some other type of vegetable. I also stuffed the cavity of the chicken with fresh thyme and mint along with the lemons. I served it with a cut baguette to sop up the sauce.

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