Provencal Roast Chicken

I adopted Jezebel around 1999. She was so small that I quite reasonably assumed she was a kitten. But the vet put her at about three years old. Jezebel remains a delightful companion, despite her recent propensity for late night yowling. (The internet suggests that dementia is likely.) As you can see, whatever’s happening in her brain, she’s managed to hold onto her good looks.

As tiny as she was when she found me, Jezebel is now down under five pounds, so I tend to feed her whatever she wants. She and I only made our way through a small bit of this truly scrumptious Provencal-style roast chicken tonight, but I am confident that it will be just as good throughout the week.

While I once confined myself to white meat off the bone (a holdover from my vegetarian upbringing and subsequent squeamishness), I love roasting a whole chicken. The smell permeates the house. It’s economical. It leaves you with bones to make stock. And a whole chicken can be communal–even when it’s just you and your cat.

Roast Chicken with Porcini, Leeks and Root Vegetables

  • One whole chicken (5-7 pounds), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 lemon
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence (lavender, savory, fennel, thyme and rosemary or some combination thereof)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions sliced and rinsed thoroughly
  • 4 cups of chopped root vegetables (turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, etc.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour over the dried porcini.
  2. Slice the ends off of the lemon, score the sides and stuff it inside the bird. Combine a tablespoon of kosher salt, a good amount of freshly-ground pepper and a tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence in a small dish. Rub this all over the bird, being sure to get under the skin to massage it into the breast meat. If you’ve got some kitchen twine and you can find a way to access it while your hands are covered in raw chicken, truss the legs. If not, whatever.
  3. Set the bird in a roasting pan breast-side down, drizzle some olive oil over the top and pop it in the oven. After 30 minutes or so, flip the bird over and baste with the pan juices. If the bird hasn’t released much fat, you can use a little more olive oil. You might also sprinkle the top with additional salt, pepper and herbs if you like.
  4. After another 30 minutes, slide the bird to the side and add your leeks and root vegetables. (I went with turnips, carrots, beets and potatoes because that’s what I had on hand.) Stir these with the pan juices and then add 1/2 tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and the porcini along with their liquid. Mound the vegetables in the center, flip your chicken so that it is once again breast-side down and place it on top of the vegetables.
  5. Continue cooking, basting the bird with the juices approximately every fifteen minutes and stirring the vegetables if needed. It should take roughly 20 minutes total cooking time per pound, but start checking your chicken whenever you get anxious or when the aroma starts to make you dizzy. I recommend ignoring whatever guidelines your thermometer may suggest and, instead, aim for getting the deepest part of the thigh up around 165 degrees. Be sure to let it rest for about five minutes out of the oven. If you’re worried about the bird getting cold, tent it very loosely–lest you steam that beautiful, crisp skin–with foil.

Were I serving this to a crowd, I would have placed the chicken on a platter, mounded the vegetables around it, and carved at the table. Instead, I hacked off of a leg and got to work.

Rice and Peas de Provence

I’ve been laying low since getting home from the beach, resting up in preparation for my return to work and–after a 16-year hiatus–my return to school. I’m starting the Master’s Program in Food Studies at New York University tomorrow. My weekend goals included finishing the baby blanket for my nephew (just need to weave in the loose ends), the juicy novel I started at the beach (33 pages to go), and season 3 of Mad Men (done).

Ordinarily, my little corner of Brooklyn is a pretty quiet place. But each Labor Day millions (yes, millions) of people descend on my neighborhood for the West Indian Day Parade. The bump bump of giant speakers loaded onto flatbed trucks and the aroma of jerk chicken cooking on steel drum grills waft through the air on what I’ve come to view as the last day of summer.

But a week and a half of vacation eating have left me craving vegetarian fare and the cupboard is pretty bare. Rooting through the fridge, I found some celery, garlic and red onions left over from my CSA share. On the counter were dried French lentils that I’d bought on a whim just before leaving town, some unnamed Caribbean hot peppers my stepmom had picked up at Spence’s Bazaar (a must if you find yourself in or around Dover, Delaware) and dried porcini mushrooms that I’d bought at Byler’s (a country variety store in Dover that’s also worth a visit).

Clearly, a West Indian-Provencal mashup was in order…

Rice and Peas de Provence

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • vegetable stock (I’ve taken to keeping a jar of Better Than Bouillon on hand)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp herbes de provence (or an equivalent amount of thyme, rosemary, savory, fennel and/or basil)
  • 2 whole allspice berries, crushed into a fine powder
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or other hot pepper, cut in half and seeded
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup French lentils (the small ones)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grained rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (you could use canola or vegetable oil to make this a vegan dish)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • Scotch bonnet or other Caribbean hot sauce
  1. Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock or 4 cups of water with bouillon to a boil in a medium-sized heavy pot and add dried mushrooms, breaking up any large pieces. After five minutes, add the bay leaf, spices, wine, garlic, pepper and celery and let boil for an additional five minutes.
  2. Add lentils, lowering heat to a simmer. After five minutes, add rice. Let simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring gently and adding small amounts of water as needed, until lentils and rice are just tender. Turn heat off and top with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a small pot and then add onion. Cook until onions are very soft, stirring frequently. 
  4. Remove bay leaf. Add cooked onions, lemon juice salt and pepper to taste. If the dish is spicy enough for you, remove and discard the pepper. Alternately, you can mince it up and add it back to the pot, which is what I did.

I’m meeting a neighbor at 7:00 for a little rooftop dining. I plan to serve this with some Scotch bonnet pepper sauce that I picked up in the Bahamas and a Vinho Verde that I have on hand, although I suspect that some ice-cold beer would also do the trick.