Pan-roasted chicken thighs and sweet potato fries

Pan-roasted chicken thighs with sweet potato fries

 

Help yourself to this healthy and tasty weeknight dinner:  my pan-roasted chicken thighs and sweet potato fries. They are easy to prepare and won’t burden your food budget unduly. A great meal in 30 minutes.

Pan-roast the skin side of your chicken thighs until they have a nice golden brown color. Then shove the pan and its contents into a 320 degree oven and cook until done, about 30 min.

While the chicken’s roasting, slice up the sweet potatoes, add a hint of olive oil, salt and pepper. In their own pan, they join the chicken in the oven, but on the bottom rack. Once the thighs are done, engage the broiler, move the fries to upper rack and finish them off, creating a yummy crust. You can find more details on how to make these wonderful sweet potato fries here. Boom!—you’re done.

Recipe: My best Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken Happy chicken before transformation

In my opinion there is no more useful cooking skill then the ability to roast a delicious and juicy chicken. It’s a healthy choice and the go-to protein for many a weekday evening in my house. And with a little discipline, it can last for two eaters for three meals. The first night: roasted dark meat, ie, the legs. Second night: maybe chicken salad made from the breast*? The remainder forms the basis for a nice chicken-and-vegetable soup. (*Today’s trivia question, answered: a single chicken has 1 breast, not 2.)

Everybody has their own way for roasting a chicken. For my recipe, all you need, besides the chicken, is salt and pepper, and a little butcher twine—minimal enough for you? Here’s a perfectly roasted chicken:

Your organic, free-range, poetry-read, sunblock-protected, and otherwise ethically-correct chicken—now slaughtered—should be at room temperature. So take it out of the fridge about an hour before you start.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Starting the roast with high temperature ensures a beautifully brown and crispy skin in the end.

Prepare your chicken by removing the wishbone and clipping the ends of the wings. How do you remove a wishbone, you might ask? It’s easy to do yet complicated to describe (as is so much in life, no?). I will post a little video on chicken-wishbone removal in the near future. Getting rid of the wing tips ensures that they won’t burn in the oven.

Salt and pepper comes next. Be generous with the salt, outside and in.

Now truss (ie, twine-tie) the chicken. In the end the chicken should look like a tight wonderful little package, just like in the photo. The reason for trussing, I believe, is that it ensures a more even cooking. And it just makes it look more beautiful when it comes out of the oven—a good pose, if you will. Full disclosure: there is some debate around trussing; some believe the resulting chicken is better without it. I am outing myself here as a traditionalist: truss!

Next, our bird goes into your roasting pan—no oil, no butter. I guess a rub with butter could be nice, but not for us health-conscious eaters (please, don’t tell me what I’m missing). As a detail-oriented observer you will note the potatoes in the picture. Yes, I threw a few spuds into the pan as well.  Why not create wonderful roasted potatoes on the fly, soaking up all those delicious chicken drippings.  Not to worries, just salt and pepper the potato chunks and add after the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes.  If you add right at the beginning they will burn.

And now, our naked bird faces the heat. Roast at high temperature for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken shows a very nice and almost-done brown skin color. Once this is achieved, we turn the oven down to 350 degrees to finish. If your oven heats unevenly, now is a good time to turn the roasting pan.

I take the chicken out when the temperature inside the thickest part shows 150 to 155 degrees—this based on poking the thermometer into the breast, near the thigh.

Out of the oven she comes. Cover with tin foil and let rest for about 15 min. The temperature at that point should be at near a perfect 160 degrees.

Dig in!

Pan-roasted Red Snapper with Lemongrass-Shallot Sauce and Peas—the Healthy Way

 

Here’s a perfect—and healthy—weeknight dinner. The sauce will take about 20 minutes (so long as you are a good chopper). You’ll need 5 to 8 minutes to pan-roast the fish. In parallel you’ll anglaise the peas. So in under 30 minutes you’ll be sitting at the dinner table.

The sauce is what makes this meal a true winner. The lemongrass adds a wonderful perfume, nicely balanced by the acidity of the wine and sour cream. The original recipe called for some heavy cream, but at the last minute I substituted the cream with non-fat sour cream and the results worked beautifully. The resulting reduced calorie count puts this dinner in the healthy category (although the Speedo test is still far off). Here is want you need to make snapper for two:

3 to 4 oz of red snapper fillet per person (I bought a single big fillet)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

Sauce:
1 clove of garlic, finely diced (about a tablespoon)
2 stems of lemon grass, core finely diced (about a tablespoon)
1 small shallot, finely diced (about two tablespoons)
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of non-fat sour cream
1/2 cup clam juice
2/3 cup of dry wine (I love Gruener Veltiner for this)

1.5 to 2 cups of frozen peas
5 stems of mint, leaves cut into a chiffonade (roll like a cigar and then cut in thin strips)
Salt and pepper

Boil the peas in a salted pot of water for 3 minutes. Cool in ice water to set the green color; drain in collander.

For the sauce: in the butter and at medium heat, sauté the diced garlic, lemon grass, and shallots, being careful not to brown them. This should only take a few minutes. Add the wine and the clam juice and, at high heat, reduce until you have about 1/3 cup of liquid. Puree this in a blender with the non-fat sour cream and then return to the cleanly-wiped sauce pan. Salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

Pan-sear the seasoned red snapper fillets in a hot pan with the grapeseed oil. I really like to sauté fish with this oil, because it is tasteless and has a high smoke point. This means you’ll be tasting the nicely browned delicious fish and not burned oil.

While sautéing the fish, I reheat the peas with a tiny bit of butter.

Assemble your plates using the sliced mint leaves. See pictures above for a suggested presentation.

Enjoy your light and healthy spring dinner!

p.s. The February 2014 Food and Wine featured the fat- and calorie-rich version of this recipe which also looks really good. And hey, Speedo season’s still a long way off.

Pea Soup with Fresh Mint

Pea Soup with Mint Ingredients for Pea Soup with Fresh Mintimageimageimage

This soup is a staple in our home. Mint and peas are classic companions and this soup is easy to cook. You need only three ingredients: Leeks, peas (I always use frozen ones), and a bundle of fresh mint. And I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure it’s good for you—healthy and light with only a small amount of butter. This one offers a pleasingly big burst of flavor.

Sometimes for a cocktail party I will serve the soup in cups (see pictures below). This offers my guests a welcomed break from the very expected snacks (still not a doctor here, but I believe these may not be as good for you) and crudité.

Pea Soup with Fresh Mint
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6 to 8
Ingredients
  • 2 standard packages of frozen petit peas
  • 3 leeks, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Over medium heat melt the butter and sauté the chopped leeks until soft, right before they start to brown. Medium heat works much better than high heat, as this allows the leeks to soften slowly and develop their sugars. This step should take about 5 to 7 minutes. Season as you go with salt and pepper.
  2. Now add a quart of water and bring to a boil. Cook at a lazy bubble for 15 to 20 minutes. (This soup actually tastes better when cooked with water instead of adding chicken or vegetable stock. You will better taste the intense pea and mint flavors—a very clean flavor profile.)
  3. Now turn the heat to high and dump the peas into the pot. The frozen peas will drop the temperature in the pot dramatically. On high head, bring the soup to a boil as fast as possible. Once it’s boiling, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, and continue to season. Preserve the appealing bright green color of the soup by not overcooking. You may want to add a little more water if the soup feels too thick.
  4. The whole thing now goes into the blender. Drop a handful of mint leaves into the mix. Carefully blend until super smooth, then return to the cleaned pot. Bring to a boil one more time. This step will cook the starch out of the pulverized peas, bonding all the flavors in this super creamy delight together in the process. And make sure you notice: there’s not a single drop of cream responsible for this soup’s super creaminess.

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My favorite way to garnish the soup is with a chiffonade of mint leaves. Simply roll up a bunch of mint leaves like a cigar and slice it into very thin strips. But as you can see, this soup looks delicious even without any garnish.

You can find a similar recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, The French Culinary Institute’s Salute to Health Cooking.