What is the one thing that brings people together? Well, in my world anyway, food is the glue to happiness. These strange times that we have been living in the past six months have challenged our very basic needs. Things that we used to take for granted, such as going out to a restaurant with friends or family to enjoy a simple meal, now seem like the very heart of our connection. Food, meals, family, friends, and shared experiences are exactly why restaurants have been special places throughout history.
That being said, we can still find joy in cooking at home and recreating the experiences that we have been stripped of over the past several months. With this in mind, I decided to cook a meal for my family that was so simple yet so elegant that it would provide us with the sense of normalcy that we have been starving for.
And I didn’t stop with preparing a fantastic meal. I went all the way – I broke out our tablecloth, dimmed the lights, lit some candles, put on some music and even ironed a shirt. When my family came home and saw the spread I had laid out, they were delighted and the four of us sat down and shared our meal just as if we were dining in our favorite restaurant.
Now, of course, after reading my past blog posts and knowing that I have been in this business for a very long time, you might be wondering what I made. Lobster Thermidor? Beef Wellington? Some other fancy dish that you can’t pronounce? Well… Far from it. I take pleasure in cooking the simple things that this earth has given us and are able to inspire that Ratatouille feeling. Enough suspense, I made the epitome of comfort food embodied in a complete meal: Whole Roasted Chicken with Lemon Scented Asparagus and Horseradish Red Mashed Potatoes. The name may sound fancy, but I promise you that this dish is easy to prepare, light on the budget, but still worthy of a tablecloth.
When you prepare this meal for your loved ones, I also encourage you to go all the way. It doesn’t matter if you can’t invite your friends over. Set the stage anyway and break out those candles that have been sitting in your cupboard for months.
Roasted Chicken Recipe
1 four pound whole free-range chicken
¼ cup of melted unsalted butter
¼ cup of olive oil
1 lemon (cut in two halves)
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of herb de Provence (or Italian seasoning)
Enough salt & pepper mix to cover the chicken (top and under)
Preheat oven at 425.
First step is to remove the giblets and neck from inside the cavity and discard. Chicken should be at room temperature, washed and patted dry.
Salt and pepper the chicken generously.
In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, olive oil, garlic and herb de provence.
Place the chicken in a baking dish big enough so that none of the skin is touching the sides. Pour the mixture over the whole chicken (bottom and under the skin as well). Once done, squeeze the lemon all over the chicken and then put it in the cavity.
Place the dish in the oven (middle rack) and cook for approximately an hour and 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (juices should be clear when checking with a skewer).
For a crispier skin, you may leave it under the broiler for 3 of 4 minutes. Either way, let it rest out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving.
Lemon Scented Asparagus
1 or 2 bunches of fresh asparagus
Salt and pepper
Cut off about an inch and a half from each asparagus stem.
In a shallow pan, put enough water to submerge the asparagus. Squeeze in the lemon juice but save the lemon.
When the water boils, drop the asparagus into it for 3 or 4 minutes.
Using a pair of tongs, remove from the pan and place on a serving dish.
Using a lemon grater (or cheese grater), grate enough zest to cover the asparagus. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Horseradish Red Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds of medium size red potatoes
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
2 tablespoon of milk (optional)
2 tablespoons of creamy horseradish
¼ cup of fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and cut all potatoes in half.
Drop them in boiling water for about 20 minutes.
Remove, drain and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and with a large fork, mash the potatoes to the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to your taste.