There has been quite a bit of buzz (well in the culinary world at least), about New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark’s new cookbook, Cook This Now. My kitchen shelves are bulging with cookbooks and I resolved not to buy anymore, but I did order one to give as a gift to my sister. When it arrived, of course I had to look through it. Melissa organizes the book by month, which ordinarily irritates me. My husband can provide anyone interested with the entire litany of little things that irritate me, but let’s keep it pleasant and not go there today. As I was saying, ordinarily, I prefer when cookbooks are organized by traditional categories (ie: appetizers, breads, chicken etc…) However, Melissa had me hooked from the very first January recipe, “White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic and Farro.” She had me at farro!
So of course, I kept the cookbook for myself and ordered another one for my sister, plus a bonus book (Momofuko’s Milk Bar) as my penalty for being late. Bo, if you’re reading this, now you know why your gift was late.
And rebel that am, I skipped right past the first 2 January recipes and boldly tackled the 3rd one first! Full disclosure here, I’m really not that much of a rebel, I just happened to have a whole chicken defrosting in the fridge.
Melissa likes to play a game when she looks through food magazines. She doesn’t read the recipes. Instead, she looks at the photos and imagines what she thinks the recipe should be. She says that her track record is pretty good at guessing accurately, but sometimes she’s way off base. And that’s how the recipe for crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons and Carrots was born. Melissa explains:
“The photo was of a roasted chicken on a bed of chickpeas and what I thought were tiny cubes of carrot. I could taste the dish in my head. The chickpeas were crunchy and salty next to the melting, sweet carrots and everything was suffused with chicken fat from the roasting bird.
In fact, the carrots turned out to be bits of orange bell pepper (definitely not in season in January in New York) and the chickpeas were added to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking so they would stay moist and soft, without the time to absorb much in the way of chicken essence. I’m sure it was a perfectly good dish. But I liked my own idea better.”
Her description was very persuasive. I set to work right away. Lemons are sliced into little wedges and then mixed with chickpeas and garam masala, an Indian spice blend. I happened to have rainbow carrots and some parsnips, so they got thrown into the pan as well.
More garam masala is rubbed all over the chicken and then the chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper and then stuffed with more lemon and some fresh thyme. Melissa suggests rubbing the chicken with softened butter, but I left this step out as I didn’t want the extra fat. The stuffed chicken is placed on a rack, above the carrots and parsnips and roasted in a 400° F oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the chickpea-lemon mixture is added to the bottom of the pan and the chicken gets about another hour in the oven. While it was roasting I prepared the gremolata garnish.
This dish is pure roast chicken goodness! Moist and succulent and intensely flavourful.The carrots and parsnips turned dark brown and had a wonderful sweet caramelized flavour. The chickpeas turned all crispy from roasting in the chicken juices. The only part of the dish we didn’t love was the roasted lemons. Melissa says they are edible, but we found them to be too bitter. Next time, and there will be a next time very soon, I will add only the zest of the lemons to the chickpeas.