Last week we had the first taste of fall: crisp air and leaves slowly starting to show shades of yellow, burnt orange, and brown. The change from summer to fall makes me want to get in the kitchen and make slowly cooked meats and comforting potato dishes. So when I received a copy of Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom in the mail last week, the timing could not have been better.
I slowly looked through the book and was excited at the possibilities. The first one that caught my eye was the golden potato gratin. I love that it doesn’t use the typical flavor profile used in most gratins: nutmeg and cheese. Instead it uses creme fraiche and thyme to get a savory flavor profile with a rich and tangy taste, and a very creamy consistency. I’m definitely planning on making this for thanksgiving. I even had leftovers with a fried egg on top for breakfast.
After indulging in the potato gratin for a couple of days, I was in the mood to make succulent roast chicken. Something that I could turn into other meals the rest of the week. On Sundays, I typically try to make at least one dish that will make a few extra servings to take for lunch during the work week. It is also nice to have something ready when you get home from a long day at work. I turned to the book and found a recipe for roasted chicken quarters with lemons and green olives. In this recipe, the olives and the lemons really counterbalance the richness of the dark chicken quarters. I invited friends over for dinner, and served it with orzo, as suggested in the book. I shredded the leftover chicken, and packed a couple lunches with the chicken and sticky glutinous rice. I know a lot of people do not like dark chicken meat. I didn’t like it as a child. I found it tough and full of fatty pieces. The truth is that dark chicken meat is better when slowly roasted or braised. It comes out really tender and flavorful. Long, slow cooking makes it tender and renders out some of the fat which keeps the chicken meat moist.
Can’t wait to try more Sunday roasts from this book!
Golden Potato Gratin
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing the baking dish
1 ½ cups crème fraiche
1/3 cup heavy/double cream
3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Butter a 3 ½ to 4 quart oven-to-table baking dish generously (a 9-by-13 inch dish works well).
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche and the cream.
4. Arrange one-third of the potato slices in the bottom of the prepared pan, overlapping the slightly. Season them generously with salt and pepper and with ½ teaspoon of the thyme. Spread one-third of the crème fraiche mixture over the potatoes. Repeat to make two more layers.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife and the top is golden brown, for about 25 minutes more. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving. (The gratin can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cool, cover loosely with foil, and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat, uncovered, in a preheated 350°F oven until hot, for about 15 minutes.)
Chicken Quarters Roasted with Lemons and Green Olives
3 large, thick-skinned lemons
6 chicken leg-and-thigh quarters with the skin left on, about 3 ½ lb
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup chopped shallots
6 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup green Mediterranean olives, pitted or unpitted (Picholine or Luques)
¾ to 1 cup chicken broth
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Zest 2 of the lemons to yield 2 tablespoons zest, and juice to yield ¼ cup juice. Cut the third lemon into 6 wedges for the garnish.
3. Pat the chicken quarters dry with paper towels/absorbent paper. Trim and discard any excess fat or dangling skin. Salt and pepper the chicken generously on both sides. Place an extra-large ovenproof frying pan (with a lid) over medium –high heat with enough oil to coat the bottom (3 to 4 tablespoons). When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Brown well on all sides, turning several times, for about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the chicken to a side dish. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the oil in the frying pan and discard the rest (or add more oil to make 4 tablespoons if necessary).
4. Return the pan to the stove over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until just softened but not browned, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add half of the parsley, the garlic, and the oregano, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, wine, and olives, and then return the chicken to the pan.
5. Bring the mixture to a simmer, the cover the frying pan and place it in the oven. Roast until the chicken is very tender when pierced with a knife, for 45 to 50 minutes, then remove the lid and roast for 5 to 10 minutes longer to let the juices reduce slightly. Watch carefully so that the juices do not evaporate completely.
6. Remove the chicken to a platter; tent loosely with foil and set aside. Add ¾ cup broth to the pan and heat until it is warm. The mixture should have a very thin, sauce-like consistency. If too thick, and an additional 1/3 cup broth. (The chicken can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, covered, in a 350°F oven until hot, 15 minutes or longer, adding extra broth if needed.)
7. To serve, pour the juices in the pan over the chicken. Sprinkle with feta cheese and with the remaining parsley, and garnish with the lemon wedges.
Recipes excerpted from Sunday Roasts: A Year’s Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts by Betty Rosbottom. Reprinted with permission. © 2011 Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.