Much as I love a perfect cashmere sweater, we can’t live on style alone. Turns out we have to eat. And there comes a time for almost all of us when we will be eating alone for a few days. Maybe you’re single and living alone, in a week where the usual diversions haven’t materialized. Maybe you’re coupled, but your partner is traveling out of town for the week. Of if you’re divorced, your children are with the other parent.
Grandes Dames may dine out in solo majesty. Order take in from the best restaurants in town. Artsy Cousins may have tabbouleh in the fridge, with exotic yogurts from Bulgaria as accompaniment. Many cucumbers. Follow the Raw Food movement. But we Sturdy Gals prefer to cook. Something tasty and healthy. Something easy to make and easy to clean up. Enter Roast Chicken Pieces With Diverse Vegetables. No measuring. Minimal washing-up. Excellent leftover reuse.
Best of all, roasting vegetables is a transformative act. While their resultant caramelization rescues roast chicken from chewy hunk of protein status, they’re still vegetables, those foodstuffs we want, in theory, to consume in large quantities.
Go to the market. Buy three large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I spring for organic. Your choice.
Swing by the produce section. Buy two large yellow onions, plus two large handfuls each of two of the following vegetables: brussels sprouts, beets, fennel bulbs, red bell peppers, butternut squash, or russet potatoes. Granted, sizing up a handful of butternut squash requires a little imagination, but it’s doable. Pick a harmonic vegetable pairing. Beets with fennel would insult nature. Onions get along with everything.
Go home. Preheat your oven to whatever temperature you like to use for roasting chicken. I’m a 400 degrees for 45 minutes kind of gal, but this recipe is beyond flexible. 450 degrees for 30 minutes should also work, as would 350 degrees for an hour. Your choice. Mark Bittman says 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes. He is a god of Sturdy Gal cooking and you should probably do what he says. On the other hand, he gets all fancy about when to add herbs and when to baste and I don’t pay too much attention for this recipe. The whole point is not to have to pay attention.
Cut up whatever vegetables you have into 3-inch cubes. Approximately.
Take out your battered old roasting pan. The one that came with the oven. Cover it in tinfoil and apologize to the environment. This is to make cleanup as minimal as possible. Now splash in some olive oil and squooge it around. Enough to make everything slidy, not so much that anything will sautee instead of roast.
Next, unwrap your chicken. I have terrible chicken bacteria phobia, so I like to stab the chicken breasts with a fork and move them DIRECTLY to the pan, crumple up the chicken packaging, throw it away, and wash my hands. Phew. Then I salt and pepper the chicken breasts as I please.
Now decide on the herbs. As much or as little as you like. Two or three tablespoons is probably about right. Feel like Indian food? Get out that curry. Add some extra turmeric, it’s supposed to be good for your memory. Nothing wrong with self-medication when spices are involved. Mediterranean? Thyme, basil, oregano. Moroccan? Cumin, coriander. And so on. Make sure your herbs go with the vegetables. I think coriander might distress your brussels sprouts. I could be wrong.
Lay the vegetables under and around the chicken. There should be space for air so that the food roasts, rather than steaming. But otherwise, that’s it.
Put it in the oven. Baste once or twice. Fidget with the chicken if you like, using tongs to dislodge it from the pan now and then. Your house will smell like someone loves you. Remove from oven when done. Look around wondering where to put a hot roasting pan because you just don’t trust granite not to explode, or shatter, upon contact with heat. Decide for the 146th time to put it on the stove burners until you buy more trivets, knowing full well that you may never buy more trivets.
If some vegetables seem to cook ahead of schedule, you can take them out and leave the rest to cook a little while longer. Or you can just enjoy really, really well done fennel bulbs. I love that little black crusty part on the edge, and the way they smoosh when cooked longer than strictly necessary.
Now you have one breast for first night’s dinner, as it comes out of the oven, the next to use on salad or in a burrito, a final one to heat up again with the last of the onions and pan juices. When you have two breasts left, put the whole roasting pan in the fridge, covered in more tinfoil, to save container cleaning. Once you’ve only got one, wrap it up in the tinfoil already in use and clean the pan at that point. I told you we were keeping this effort as minimal as possible. If you aren’t an all-chicken-all-the-time kind of person, slide in one night of frozen pizza with a salad. And if you’re waiting for someone, they will be home soon.