Herbed Roasted Chicken & Vegan Spiced Apples & Potatoes

IMG_2896.JPGYou know those dishes that you create without any plan and you find yourself surprised at how well they come out? Well, needless to say this is one of those dishes. And yes, despite being trained to know how to cook, chefs indeed have those moments of ah-hah, that’s delicious. It’s not like the roasting of chicken is a complicated process that requires the need of bells and whistles because it doesn’t. And that’s why we flock to it as our go-to meal when there is minimal time for fussy dinner preparation. Not that I make fussy meals or anything, cough.

Over the summer my wife and I visited Asheville, NC for the Food Blogger Forum. An event where food bloggers gather and discuss our passion for food, blogging, and the art of creating community. I received a little jar of what was labeled vegan spice. At first, I had no idea what the heck the stuff was or how I was going to properly utilize it to fit into our meals, but one night I saw the spice while in the midst of trying to decode what we were going to eat for dinner based upon the scant selection of ingredients in our fridge. If there’s anything I hate more than folding laundry, its trips to the grocery store once I’m already home for the evening.

I looked in the fridge and there it was staring at me, a whole bird, two sweet potatoes, three new red potatoes and some Mutsu apples from Chattanooga that I had just purchased at Whole Foods Market. Before I knew it, I had reached for the cast-iron skillet on the shelf and I set the chicken in the pan. After a brief moment of hesitation I placed the chicken back onto a cutting board and proceeded to cut it in half after realizing we probably won’t eat the whole thing. I turned the oven to 425 degrees. I seasoned both halves of the chicken with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, finely minced thyme, oregano and I tucked two pats of unsalted butter beneath the skin, set it aside. I rinsed the potatoes and apples, removed any eyes from the potatoes that didn’t look edible and cut them into chunks. Just in case you were wondering I cored the apples. I tossed the potatoes and apples in two teaspoons of the vegan spice, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and a smidge of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste.

I put the chicken in the center of the cast-iron skillet and nestled the potatoes and apples around it but being careful not to completely cover the skin, because crispy skin is the key to the perfect roasted chicken. I walked away and began to write this post while I waited for it to cook and for my wife to come home. The cooking time is somewhere between 45 min to an hour, of course this is subjective based upon your oven, so properly temp your chicken for a internal temperature of 165º. There may have been some Parks & Recreation in the backdrop, laugh-out-loud, because that show slays me! I’m so grateful for Netflix…sigh. But any-who, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the wife and I did. I’m already in need of ordering more of that vegan spice because I’ve been using it so often. You can order it here. Enjoy and I’d love to hear about some of your ah-ha dishes that turned out un-expectedly well.

Sage Roasted Chicken with Israeli Cous Cous & Cabernet Mushroom Reduction

Sage Roasted Chicken : Recipe by The Local ForkfulI enjoy trying a vast variety of foods, never limiting myself to one regional cuisine or the next. My roots will always be southern-based and you’ll typically find the traditional ingredients somehow incorporated. Last year, I taught a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma and one of the salads I prepared contained tri-color couscous. I am a lover of couscous and why no one is really clear as to where it originated, that doesn’t keep me from indulging whenever it’s in my presence.

The general public may often confuse it for rice but it is not, but closer to a pasta of sorts. The tiny granules are actually bits of durum wheat, which is also the grain ground into semolina flour, which is commonly used for making pasta. Voila!CousCous

I prefer the Israeli couscous, which is a larger granule with a fluffier texture. Today’s blog post was inspired by my desire for something hearty but not heavy and that was perfect for this ‘sweater weather’ we’ve been experiencing in Middle Tennessee. Brrr! So when scurrying through the isles of the supermarket I discovered sage for a dollar, carrots are always cheap-er, and some button mushrooms that were just screaming to be picked-up, so I obliged. I typically always go for shallots when a recipe calls for onion. I love their mild sweetness with just enough of that sharp onion tang,and they won’t leave you with offensive breath. Score!

This dish may look and feel slightly overwhelming but don’t allow it to be. Read it all the way through before tackling and ‘mis en place’. You’ll be thankful you did. It’s 2014 and you’re conquering your cooking fears. There’s a chef in all of us just screaming to get out. Open the door.

Sage Roasted Chicken, CousCous, & Cabernet Mushroom Reduction

1 lb skin-on chicken breast
1 T. Olive Oil + 1 tsp
2 T. unsalted butter
2 stems fresh sage leaves
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

1.5 peeled carrot medallions
4 medium shallots peeled & quartered
2 T. Olive Oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

5 oz. tri-color Israeli CousCous
1 cup chicken stock
1 T. unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt

1 cup quartered button mushrooms
1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon wine (or a syrah/malbec)
3 T. cubed, chilled unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt to taste


1. Pre-heat oven to 400. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside. In a medium saute pan on medium-high heat, heat olive oil until it begins to spread, about 20 seconds. Add butter, allow to completely melt while swishing pan lightly in a circular motion. Once butter is melted and you have a nice sizzle lay the chicken skin side down gently. Snuggle the sage stems around the chicken. Let the chicken brown on the skin side checking it occasionally, as we do not wish to eat burned chicken. Once Chicken is ‘golden brown delicious’ flip it over and allow it to finish in the oven. Use a thermometer to check temp. 165 degrees is safe but I prefer 155 or so and allow for ‘carry-over’ cooking.

2. Get your water for the couscous on the stove. Rinse, peel and cut your vegetables accordingly. On a sheet pan toss your carrots and shallots in the olive oil and season with salt in pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes on 400 until they are fork tender. Simply follow cooking directions on the back of the box for couscous and set aside once finished. taste for seasoning. Once veggies are finished, toss them into your fluffly couscous and combine. If you have it, a little chopped parsley, leftover sage would be nice thrown in to this mix.

3. Using your oven mitt remove your chicken and sage leaves from the pan, set aside. Return your pan to a medium heat, if you need a little more olive oil to sautee the mushrooms add a little now. Toss in the mushrooms and just cook until they get a little color on them, about 2 minutes. Add in red wine and allow to reduce by half. If splatter is occurring then slightly reduce heat. Once wine is reduced, remove your pan from the heat and add the butter. Using a wooden spatula vigorously stir butter into the sauce until completely melted. The wine should begin to thicken and coat your spoon. Timing is very crucuial as your sauce will break if butter is not combined quickly. You are relying on the fat content to emulsify the sauce.

4. Spoon your couscous mixture onto the center of your plate, piling in a mole hill fashion. Lie your chicken breast vertically along the side of the hill and ladle your mushroom cabernet reduction across the chicken. Grab a glass of that Cabernet and the rest is history. This dish would be perfect for a dinner-for-two. Also known as Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!