Tuesday, September 22, 2020

On Cooking Southern: Serve Up Sunday Flavor With Savory Chicken, Spring Veggies

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SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Hallelujah and pass the cornbread
: Southern epithet of support favored by Madea and most church-goers, meaning “Praise the Lord, Amen and let’s get on with the show” … HALLELUJAH, the word of the season, is the great word of rejoicing in the Lord, derived from the two Hebrew words “hallelu” and “Yah,” the abbreviation for YHWH, the name for the Creator.

Easter and Passover are here. Dedicated homemakers everywhere have Sprung forward all the clocks, cleaned out the fridge and inventoried the contents of the freezer. We’ve aired the bedding and swept the cupboard to remove all the leavened crumbs. As of today, we’ve also dyed and deviled the eggs. All that’s left for the holiday conclusion are the prayers, the singing, the meal and the Amen.

The Old Bride decided to save a pig and a lamb this year. Instead, I’ve opted to serve a classic roasted chicken with some of those gorgeous spring vegetables currently on display at the local grocery stores.

I mixed up my own Herbes de Provence from a store-bought bundled package containing sprigs of fresh sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano. I greased up the chicken with top-grade California extra virgin olive oil, and slathered it with those herbs and minced garlic. Yum, Yum.

KYRIE ELEISON, y’all …

PROVENÇAL-HERBED CHICKEN
This is a simple roasted chicken that incorporates a classic French twist and pairs beautifully with various rice dishes. Herbes de Provence (either as ground spice or bouquet garni) includes a combination of fresh thyme, savory or sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and sometimes lavender. For the spice mix, they are ground up and sprinkled into the dish. For the bouquet garni, the sprigs are tied together and stuffed into the chicken or cooked into the sauce.

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3-to-6-lb roasting hen
Extra virgin olive oil
1 T fine-chopped thyme
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 T fine-chopped rosemary
2 tsp fine-chopped fresh sage
2 T minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
2 tsp fine-chopped oregano
2 T fine-chopped parsley
2 tsp fine-chopped marjoram, optional
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Kitchen twine
1 carton chicken stock
1 stick (1/2 c) salted butter
1/2 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450˚F after removing all but middle rack. Clean the cavity of the chicken, removing giblets and neck. Pat dry. Rub olive oil evenly over the chicken, drizzling a small amount inside the cavity. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan. Add about 3 cups of water to the pan underneath the chicken.

Combine all the spices and seasonings in a bowl and whisk to blend completely. Pull up the chicken skin around the legs and breasts and stuff some of the spice mix under the skin. Sprinkle spice mix evenly over the chicken, and stuff remaining spice inside the cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under.

Bake chicken uncovered for 30 minutes at 450˚F. Reduce heat to 350˚F. After 30 more minutes, drizzle chicken stock evenly over the bird and into the roasting pan. Continue baking, uncovered, until thermometer placed into thigh of chicken reaches 180 degrees. NOTE: Length of baking time will vary according to weight of the bird, but plan on at least 1-1/2 hour for a small bird. If the chicken starts to brown unevenly before reaching completion, loosely tent foil over the top to prevent burning of the legs and wings.

Remove roasted chicken to a rack to set up before carving. While chicken is resting, make chicken gravy from pan stock. Heat butter in a skillet on medium-high heat, and add flour, whisking to eliminate lumps. Continue whisking until mixture foams and begins to darken, about 10-15 minutes. Gradually stir in pan stock. Simmer while stirring, for about 5 minutes. Serve gravy on the side or use as base for a chicken and rice casserole.

ROASTED BEET SALAD ON WILTED BEET GREENS
Beets are in season right now and SHOULD be incorporated into a formal meal. They’ve been cultivated for 4,000 years, and both the beet root AND the greens are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The greens are considered equivalent to other dark leafy greens such as spinach and chard. I roast both purple beets and gold beets. This salad is terrific while still warm, or once chilled in the fridge. The sautéed beet greens may be saved and served separately as a side dish.

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3 bunches of fresh beets with greens
(3 medium beets per bunch)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 T fresh-grated orange zest
1/4 c fresh orange juice
1-1/2 tsp honey
1-1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 shallot, sliced thin
5 T Mediterranean-herbed feta crumbles
4 T salted butter
Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Peel and cut beets into quarter-inch slices, reserving beet greens. Arrange slices on sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake beets for about 45 minutes, until fork tender. Remove to a rack to cool.

While beets are baking, rinse greens. Melt butter on medium heat in a sauté pan and add greens. Cover pan and smother greens until wilted. Remove lid and turn greens. Simmer about 5 minutes, until tender. Cover and set aside.

Prepare dressing for beets by combining orange zest and juice, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard and half-teaspoon of olive oil. Whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut beets into cubes and toss in large mixing bowl with sliced shallots and orange dressing. Add about 3 tablespoons of feta crumbles and toss to blend. To plate the salad, make a nest of the wilted greens. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Arrange beets on top. Sprinkle with additional feta and walnut halves.

BLANCHED ASPARAGUS
Asparagus shoots are what we consume when they are fresh and tender. As the shoots mature, they become “woody” and inedible. Steamed or blanched asparagus pairs beautifully with hollandaise or lemon juice.

1 bunch of fresh asparagus
Salted water in cooking pan
Large bowl of ice water

Select the freshest of Spring asparagus. The shoots should be thin but plump, with straight, tightly furled tips. Lightly run a vegetable peeler down the stems to remove the outermost woody fibers. Gently rinse and snap off woody base of each asparagus shoot. Bring salted water to a boil and drop asparagus into the water.

Cover and time it to boil for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and immediately use tongs to drop blanched asparagus into ice water. This will prevent further cooking and retain the bright green color. After 2 minutes, remove asparagus to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Serve immediately or serve chilled.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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