Tag Archives: Roasted

Skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes

There are roughly a gabillion roast chicken recipes in the world. This is my absolute favorite.

I didn’t really grow up in a roast-beast-and-potatoes household. If we ate chicken, it was usually a rotisserie bird from the grocery store–delicious, but not much of a cooking lesson. So it’s been a real joy, as an adult, to teach myself the basics of chicken cookery. I’ve tried lots of methods for roasting chicken and potatoes in the same pan, and this method is a winner every time. All you need, equipment-wise, is a 12-inch cast-iron skillet.

When it comes to roasting poultry, I’m all about spatchcocking. You could ask a butcher to do this for you, but I find it’s pretty easy to do it myself with a sharp pair of kitchen shears. (I also cut out the wishbone, which is totally optional but makes the breast way easier to carve.) I make a bed of diced potatoes in the skillet, lay the flattened chicken on top, and roast the whole rig in a 450-degree oven until the bird is done. Then I move the chicken to a cutting board to rest, and use that time to broil the potatoes until they’re golden and irresistible.

Obviously, there’s a lot of room here to play with flavors and seasonings. Salt is a must, and black pepper is always nice. I usually add some minced fresh rosemary to the potatoes–a reliably wonderful flavor combination. But you could really use any mix of herbs, spices, oils, and add-ins, depending on your mood and what you’ve got on hand. I’ve included some suggestions at the bottom of the recipe.

roast chicken potatoes skillet

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Baked salmon for a crowd

Whole lemon-roasted side of salmon. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Fancy? It sure is–and also the easiest dinner party main course I’ve ever made. Full stop.

I got the idea from a Bon Appetit video, and it’s stunning in its simplicity. Oil a baking sheet, and lay down a handful of lemon slices. Plop the salmon on top and scatter over more lemon slices. Pile a big bunch of chard or beet greens around the fish. Season everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Rest. Eat.

Other hunks of roast beast tend to get all the attention for an at-home feast: beef, pork, lamb, even chicken. But cooking an entire side of salmon is far faster and just as impressive. Unlike small fillets, which are prone to overcooking, a big piece of fish stays moist and flaky even if you let it linger in the oven a minute too long. And roasting greens along with the fish is the really genius bit. The top layer of greens gets crisp, the bottom layer gets tender, and you’ve got yourself a no-effort side dish.

I can’t think of another centerpiece meat dish that’s so easy to make, yet delivers such a big wow. The flavors are clean, fresh, and so, so lovely. (It’s hard to be mad at salmon, lemon, and olive oil together.) This is also a visually stunning presentation: the coral cushion of salmon with its lemon-slice buttons, wreathed with dark crispy-soft greens. I’m the world’s most inept food stylist, and yet I still draw “oohs” and “aahs” every time I bring the baking sheet to the table.

baked salmon chard 1

Salmon and greens, ready for the oven

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Pan-roasted Padron peppers

I wish I could say I first had these in Spain, but I didn’t. It was actually at a tapas bar in San Francisco, on a chilly February night right around Valentine’s Day. Sam and I were going to a fancy party–tux for him, satin for me. We shared a bottle of very dry Iberian cider, and a cheese plate, and a little skillet of roasted Padron peppers. They astonished me, those peppers, sharp and smoky and once or twice fiery, punctuated with the occasional crunch of a salt-flake. So later that year, in summer, when I spotted Padron peppers at the farmer’s market, I snapped up a big bagful and roasted them myself. And I’ve been doing it regularly ever since.

This is one of those 1-2-3 food tricks that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. It starts with fresh Padron peppers, adorably dimpled and bright leaf-green. Padrons have a flavor all their own–where jalapenos are fruity, and poblanos are sharp, these are grassy and light, almost parsley-like. They’re also conveniently bite-sized, with long elegant stems that make them an ideal finger food. They really don’t need much done to them: just a dance in a hot pan until they shudder and crackle and char all over. (Some recipes coat the pan with olive oil before adding the peppers, but that generates an awful lot of smoke, so I keep the pan dry.) Then just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky salt, and a tapa is born.

A slightly dangerous tapa, too, because there’s an element of chance involved. Padron peppers are naturally mild, but occasional cross-pollination with nearby chiles can produce the occasional spicy pepper. I’ve most often seen a pile of Padron peppers described like a roulette game: most are utterly mild, but about every one in 10 is shockingly spicy. I think there’s actually a little more nuance to it than that. Most are completely without heat, a few will prick you lightly, and every batch has one or two that detonate in your mouth. I’d say the hottest Padron I’ve tasted was about on par with a jalapeno. There’s no way to tell in advance which peppers are the spicy ones, so adventure is the only option. Which I happen to love.

These are at their absolute best when they’re hot from the pan. I’ve been to multiple restaurants that serve them in miniature cast-iron skillets; if you’re able, I definitely recommend going that way. Otherwise, use these as an excuse to gather people around the kitchen with their glasses of wine, and hand over the peppers the moment they’re oiled and salted.

pan roasted padron peppers with bread

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Hot roasted pepper salsa

We’re officially into summer party season, with the sunshine and heat to prove it. And that means salsa season. I don’t care where you are and who you’re with, good salsa and tortilla chips are never out of place. Especially if the salsa’s freshly made.

Usually, homemade chips-and-dip salsa means pico de gallo–tomatoes, onions, limes, a chile or two, maybe a little cilantro, salt, chunked and mixed. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my favorite. I tend to go for gutsier salsas, with a little more spice and smoke to them. And nothing punches up an ordinary tomato salsa like a roasted pepper or two. Or, in this case, three.

The basic outline of this salsa is similar to the ubiquitous pico de gallo, but with a trio of peppery additions: green bell pepper for grassiness, poblano pepper for sharpness, and jalapeno pepper for fruity heat. I roasted my peppers under the broiler, which turned out okay-not-great; my favorite method is still straight-up roasting over a gas burner. (An outdoor grill would work too, if you’ve got.) As usual, the peppers are stripped of their seeds before going into the salsa, but in this case the blackened skin can stay–it’s where all the dark smokiness is. After that, it’s smooth sailing: a quick pulse in the food processor with some tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, and salt, and hey presto–a loose, liquid salsa that clings appealingly to chips.

As far as heat goes, this is not a beginner-level salsa. Straight out of the processor, it had a pretty solid kick. I liked the spice level, but several of my friends said it was just barely edible for them. As the salsa sat and mellowed in the bowl, the heat seemed to dissipate a bit, to the point that even my more spice-averse friends were able to dip a chip every now and then. But this is still not mild-and-friendly fare, so be prepared for a bit of a bite.

The one downside of this salsa is that it doesn’t keep well. After about a day in the fridge, it loses its appealing freshness. But given how liquid it is, I’d imagine the leftovers would make a darned good marinade for chicken or pork. If anyone tries this, please report back.

roasted pepper salsa

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My apartment has a gas stove. It’s an elderly beast, with a rust-pocked metal surface and dials straight out of the 1980’s. The burner covers aren’t anchored to the surface at all, so they slide around, propping pots at rakish angles and sometimes slipping completely off a lit burner. The cooktop doesn’t light reliably, and sometimes it doesn’t even try to; once or twice, in the middle of a cooking project, it’s decided that it’s had enough, and tucked away the little blue flames so quietly that I didn’t notice. But still, I forgive it, because when it’s in the mood to cooperate, that stove can roast a mean red pepper.

Nevermind that my apartment smells like burning for two days afterward. Roasting peppers is just too much fun when you have a gas stove. I love setting the pepper at an angle over the ring of flame, watching the skin slowly blacken and flake up into ember-edged bits. I love the little jolt I get whenever an ember shakes loose from the skin and skates across the stovetop. And I love the ending ritual, once all the sides have been seared: steaming the pepper, then crumbling the blackened bits off to reveal supple red flesh underneath. Broiling and grilling will get the job done on a pepper, but for sheer primal MAN MAKE FIRE satisfaction, there’s nothing like an open flame.

The last time I roasted a red pepper, I had to borrow a match and a candle from another tenant just to light the stove. But it was worth it, because at the end of it all, I had a batch of homemade harissa. I first discovered this stuff in Israel, drizzled into a falafel sandwich: a thick orange-red hot sauce, bulked out with roasted pepper and fragrant with garlic and spices. You can buy it in jars, fiery and pungent, but I was surprised by how different my homemade version tasted: less aggressive, sweeter and lighter, unmistakably roasted, with spices lingering in the background rather than charging the stage. In the week since I’ve made it, I’ve already used it in place of salsa on huevos rancheros, and stirred it into a batch of minty tomato sauce for poaching eggs. At this rate, I’ll be lucky if it lasts another week.

One thing to note: harissa recipes vary, but most agree that it should be aggressively spicy. Perhaps it’s just my pepper-blitzed taste buds, but the recipe I adapted was not nearly spicy enough for my tastes. This version is a sweet-smoky red pepper paste, almost like a salsa–but a hot sauce, it ain’t. Next time I think I’ll swap a habanero for the Fresno chiles–but me, I like a fair amount of heat. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

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Roasted garlic, cauliflower, and red lentil soup

Summer is in its last flush here in California. The days are warm and clear and oh-so-slightly breezy. The farmer’s markets are still overflowing with stone fruit and tomatoes. The figs on my landlord’s trees are stubbornly waiting to ripen until the temperature really drops. But night is falling earlier now; the equinox glided by this weekend, and it’s time to face facts. Fall is creeping in.

As always, I’m half-sheepishly mourning the long hours of daylight. But I’m also excited, because fall weather means fall food. And right now, as the nights get chillier, fall food means soup. My little Ikea soup pot has been sitting on the stove all summer, quietly gathering grease spatters whenever I got up the gumption to stir-fry something. Last week I brought that poor patient soup pot back into commission, with my first soup of the season. And it’s a good one: a smooth, lightly spiced puree of cauliflower, red lentils, and roasted garlic.

This is a light-yet-lush soup, built on layers of sweetness: sharp-sweet onion, sugary-sweet apple, cabbagey-sweet cauliflower, and syrupy-sweet roasted garlic. The red lentils give a hint of body and an appealing earthiness, and a hint of cumin makes the whole thing smoky and slightly exotic. I decided at the last minute to add a big dash of turmeric–cauliflower and turmeric are great friends, and the spice played up the color of the lentils, taking the soup from muted gold to dandelion-yellow. It’s not absolutely necessary, but I thought it was a nice touch.

I especially like that there’s no dairy or starch in this soup, because the whole thing is at once comforting and nearly weightless. For a pureed soup, it’s a little on the thin-and-fuzzy side, which I happen to like. You could certainly add a small peeled and diced potato along with the lentils, or finish the soup with a drizzle of cream. I tried a dollop of yogurt in the picture below, but didn’t end up loving it–the richness of the yogurt masked the subtle sweetness of the vegetables, and blunted the spices. Call me a purist, but I prefer my soup as-is.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the lovely crispy-looking garnish on top …tune in next time for that story.

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White bean and roasted garlic hummus

Sometimes reinventing the wheel is fun. But when the wheel is just too good to need reinventing, there’s no need to fuss.

I made white bean hummus this weekend. No innovations, no frills, no extra-special secret ingredients–just beans, tahini, oil, a few seasonings and a finger-sticking boatload of roasted garlic. Especially this time of year, especially in northern California, when the slowly intensifying sun and bottomless blue sky start seducing people outside to eat finger foods and play guitar on the grass, there’s a lot to be said for going back to the tried-and-true.

Roasted garlic elevates just about anything it touches, but it especially loves hummus. The combination of sweetness, creaminess and nuttiness is one of the surest crowd-pleasers I’ve ever encountered. When it’s homemade, it’s even better–the garlic is sticky and caramel-like, the beans are silky and flavorful on their own, and using fresh lemon juice cuts the creaminess with bite.

Chickpeas are traditional, of course, but white beans make for a milder hummus and let the garlic star. I like a simple mix of smoky-fragrant seasonings in my hummus–thyme, cumin, coriander, and a shiver of smoked paprika on top. I can think of no better way to kick-start the sunshine season than with a bowl of this stuff and a plate of dippable crunchy snacks.

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