Back in July, while I was sweatin’ to the Food Network at the gym, I saw an episode of the Barefoot Contessa during which Ina Garten made some scrumptious (but relatively simple) French-inspired dishes. When the boyfriends (mine and my sister’s) came back from their respective summer jaunts, I decided to prepare Ms. Garten’s recipes in a welcome back feast. What resulted was one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time.
The chicken was surprisingly easy, and it was also very flavorful and tender; the lemons gave it just enough of a citrus kick to balance out the salt. I burned the croutons quite a bit (unintentionally), but once they were soaked in the pan juices, you couldn’t really tell. The shallots were absolutely divine–I kept them in the oven for a little longer than recommended, just so they’d be extra tender and sweet (and they were). The roasted vegetables added some flavor and color to the string beans, and blanching them and then reheating them on the stove kept them green and crunchy, but you could very easily substitute plan boiled green beans (or any other vegetable).
Lemon Chicken with Croutons
Serves 3-4 people (with some leftovers). Cooking time: 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.
Roast for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and sauté the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.
Serves 6 people (or so the recipe says–there were only four of us, and we ate all of the shallots). Cooking time: 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan, add the shallots and sugar, and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and toss well.
Place the sauté pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender. Season to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot.
French String Beans
Serves 6 people. Cooking time: 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cool, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the onion and bell peppers together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing with a spatula from time to time to make sure the vegetables roast evenly.
Just before serving, reheat the string beans in a large sauté pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange on a platter. Spoon the roasted vegetables over the string beans and serve hot or at room temperature.