I’ve noticed a lot of us sitting in the polar vortex have been sticking with our old basic comfort foods to get us through the rest of this winter. This past Wednesday was definitely a comfort food kind of day.
I tend to stay close to home when the weather’s going to be nasty, mainly because I drive a very impractical (but very fun) sports car. Much to my dismay, I was caught about 10 miles from home coming out of Boston heading west into what was supposed to be rain with a dusting of snow. All I needed was 14 minutes and I would have been back home – instead I ran straight into white out conditions with snow accumulating rapidly, slicking the highway and turning the back roads into skating rinks. As I was trying to figure out which of the 4 approaches I could take to get to my house, I realized that they all included hairpin turns and were all uphill. I think if I’d practiced a little earlier this winter I could have made the Olympic bobsled team which would have been a snap on a nicely groomed track. With my skid control warning light flashing at me and my rear end sliding out (my car’s rear end) I just made it to our driveway and thankfully hit the garage door opener to slide the bobsled into the garage. The only concern I had at that point was whether or not I’d be able to stop the slide into the garage before hitting the rider mower (just a little tap, shush).
A cup of tea to simmer down the shakes and it was time to get some comforting aromas in the house. A roasted chicken has always been comfort food for me because it was usually what we had growing up for Sunday dinner. There weren’t any foodies in the 50’s so menus didn’t vary much – chicken on Sunday, pasta on Wednesday, fish on Friday, and some kind of roast on Saturday. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday was up for grabs but usually the choices were meatloaf, stuffed peppers, cabbage and spareribs, pork chops, casseroles from the latest Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping magazine and always dessert. Sometimes we’d have steak but that was always an incredibly long meal as everyone chewed…and chewed…and finally gave up to work on the potatoes and vegetables to give their jaws a rest.
A little story about our Sunday chicken dinners…my mother was a very good cook and especially known for her unbelievable pies. She never minded cooking for a crowd and we often had family joining us for Sunday dinners – until my Uncle Arthur with his 7 boys got booted out of the house by Aunt Mary one Sunday. If you’re younger than I am you might not remember that having a phone was still a new concept but the aunts and uncles who were invited to Sunday dinner would have called earlier in the week to let my mother know that a 5 pound chicken might not be enough and to plan accordingly.
I still remember sitting down one Sunday – 5:00 pm exactly – and just as the food had been passed around, Uncle Arthur was knocking at the door. The 7 boys were already through the door and finding chairs to fit themselves at the table – they were hungry! Of course my mother would never think not to invite someone to sit down to eat even if they were already stuffing their faces. In any case, that dinner we all just had a little less than usual with no leftovers for lunches for the week.
Since Arthur was my father’s brother, Dad got an earful that night. Not even close to the earful he got the next week, and the week after when Uncle Arthur and the boys continued to show up right at 5:00 every Sunday thereafter. We never did see Aunt Mary who was probably still in bed recovering from the week. I honestly thought that we were getting a special treat that Sunday when my mother had us all dress up and lined us up by the back door. Just as Uncle Arthur’s car pulled into the driveway, we were marched out the door and just getting into our car as the boys began to pile out. “Oh dear, so sorry but we weren’t expecting you…we were just heading out”. As soon as the eating army was around the corner though we were marched back into the house and our chicken dinner was served. I did wonder why we were leaving the house with the oven on and food ready to hit the table.
You’d think that would have been the end of it but nope, the following Sunday Uncle Arthur was back. Yes, he was and we were caught unawares. You did not mess with my mother though because the following Sunday we had our chicken dinner at 4:00 and were at the ice cream stand when Uncle Arthur pulled up wondering why no one was home. A couple weeks of that and we were back to our 5:00 pm routine.
This isn’t my mother’s chicken recipe, but it’s extremely juicy, tender, and flavorful. I know it sounds like a lot of garlic in here but it isn’t overwhelming at all…although you can always have some mints on the side.
Garlic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary
1 Whole chicken
6 Large cloves garlic
1 Whole head garlic
5 Tablespoons softened butter
4 Sprigs rosemary
1 Beer or 8 oz. chicken broth
– After rinsing chicken, insert full head of garlic and a couple sprigs of rosemary into cavity with a few glubs of beer
– Soften butter then mix in chopped rosemary (or use dried) and the 6 cloves of minced garlic
– Cut small openings under the skin of the chicken and push the butter/garlic/rosemary mixture into all of the areas you can read under the skin
– Pour more beer or broth on top of the chicken then cover and roast at 400° for about 1 1/2 hours, depending on size of chicken. Remove foil for last 1/2 hour to brown skin. You can continue to baste with beer.
On the side, I had mashed potatoes with gravy and this butternut squash which was perfect with pecans.
Butternut Squash with Pecans
– Chop about 1/2 large white onion
– Peel and dice butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes
– In heavy skillet, melt 4-6 tablespoons butter to cook onions until they’re almost caramelized
– Add diced squash and cover until squash is just tender
– Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, mixing onions, squash, and nuts
– Sprinkle granulated brown sugar on top
When I make this again, any of you are welcome to join us – just call ahead.