Pan sauce. You are my most favorite thing. Chicken drippings + aromatics + wine + caramelized goodness = heaven in liquid form. You really can’t beat a dish that, taking over where you leave off, cooks itself – flavors melding, juices oozing, sugars caramelizing – all while you enjoy a glass of cold wine on the porch. Of course two days ago with the soaring 100 degree heat, a recipe for roast chicken, summery as it may be with its promise of herbs, green tomatoes, and baby vegetables, might have sounded about as appealing as stepping into a sauna. But now, with the thermometer crawling back towards 70 and that glorious sort of refreshing drizzle falling, it’s time to reach for your nearest roasting pan.
This dinner was, like most we eat lately, born out of the contents of the refrigerator. This is the time of year for green tomatoes, and in an effort to do something besides the fry, I tossed one in the food processor along with a pile of fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. The tomatoes add body and acidity here which, roasted over a juicy chicken and mellowed with a little white wine, produces the aforementioned crazy delicious pan sauce. This sauce, poured over warm roast chicken and summer vegetables with a little bread for mopping and another glass of that wine on the side, made for one seriously lovely summer dinner.
It’s been a long while since plates were licked clean by someone other than Hugo the cocker spaniel in our house, but last night found John and I slurping every last bit of juice from our plates and running back to the kitchen for seconds.
Serves 4 with bread and salad.
One Year Ago: Petit Peach Brown Sugar Cakes with Sticky Toffee Sauce.
For the Green Tomato-Herb Pesto
Feel free to play around with the herbs based on what’s available in your garden/fridge/farmer’s market – I can’t think of an herb that doesn’t play well with chicken. If you do opt for more robust flavored herbs, such as sage, rosemary, oregano, or thyme, I would use slightly less and be sure to combine them with plenty of more mild herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley, chervil, dill, or tarragon.
- 1 small green tomato (or ½ large), stem removed and roughly chopped
- 1 medium handful basil leaves, washed and dried
- 1 medium handful cilantro leaves, washed and dried
- 1 medium handful parsley leaves, washed and dried
- 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- The juice of one lemon (save the lemon halves to stuff the chicken)
- ½ cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined – your should have a runny pesto-like sauce. Stop the processor periodically to scrape down the sides and ensure everything is well blended. Refrigerate until needed.
For the Chicken and Carrots
- 1 small roasting chicken
- 1 small head garlic, cut in half horizontally so the cloves are open
- The leftover lemon halves from the green tomato-herb pesto
- Kitchen string for trussing
- 1 recipe green tomato-herb pesto (above)
- 2 large bunches baby farm carrots, trimmed, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
- 1 medium onion (use spring or cippolini if you can find it), peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Plenty of salt and pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Set the chicken in a large roasting pan and generously salt the cavity – use at least 3 tbsp salt. (Salting the cavity draws the juices in as the chicken cooks.) Place the garlic and lemon halves in the cavity. Truss the chicken by wrapping a large piece of string around both wings to hold them against the body of the chicken. Then cross the string over the breast and tie it firmly around both legs to pull them together and hold them against the body of the chicken. (This doesn’t have to be pretty – you just want the wings and legs close to the body so everything cooks evenly.) Spread the green tomato-herb pesto over the chicken, making sure to get it under the legs and wings, and on the bottom side of the chicken – some pesto will run into the pan.
Roast the chicken 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and roast an additional 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the carrots and onions with the olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the oven and place the carrots and onions around the chicken in the roasting pan.* I like to gently lift the chicken off the pan using a fork so I can get some of the vegetables directly under the chicken. Pour the white wine around the pan and return to the oven (still at 350 degrees) an additional 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender-crisp and the chicken is cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the thigh should read 165 degrees.
Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving. Set the chicken on a cutting board, remove the string, and carve. Taste the vegetables and pan sauce for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve the chicken and vegetables with plenty of pan sauce, a little bread for mopping, and a cold glass of white wine.
*If you are making this dish with more mature vegetables (adult carrots, parsnips, fennel, potatoes, etc.) you can add the vegetables with the chicken and cook everything together from the start. About 20 minutes before the chicken is cooked, pour over the white wine.