So I was invited to a potluck Friday night. I immediately began to research recipes for covered, make-ahead, transportable dishes. As Friday night drew nearer, however, it was clear that "planning ahead" would involve "ordering a platter." (Thanks to Genji at Whole Foods, where sushi platters are pretty inexpensive). I did manage to get as far as purchasing the groceries for said covered dish, though, and come to think of it, I owed a few people a home-cooked meal. The concept of Sunday dinner began.
Inspired by recipes from http://www.epicurious.com/ and Martha Stewart's Quick and Healthy Cookbook, I had initially chosen a butternut squash, goat cheese and hazelnut gratin. But now that it was no longer my one covered dish, I had to figure out a good main dish. I gave some long, hard thought to attempting Thomas Keller's roasted chicken recipe from the Bouchon cookbook. Other home cooks had commented to me that this recipe was very easy! and delicious! I've eyed it a few times. This time, I sat down with it. Over coffee, in fact. I read about the brining, the sitting, the twine, the resting, and the jus. I associate brining with Thanksgiving and, honestly, other cooks. I just wasn't feeling it. Something about how I somehow make two small chickens or how Keller comments that at home, he just salts the thing and puts in the oven (well then, why bother with this brining craziness?). I was deterred.
I settled on the rosemary and garlic roasted chicken recipe from epicurious. As the reviewers commented, it was actually pretty easy. Step number one that made it easy was having the butcher, not me, butterfly the chicken, making for minimal raw chicken handling. Always a good thing. From there, you make a paste of garlic, rosemary, olive oil and juniper berries (which Whole Foods does not, in fact, carry, rendering them irrelevant to my little world), salt and pepper. Via a spreader, you slather the paste onto (and into) the chicken and roast over sprigs of rosemary. For an hour or so, depending on the size of the chicken. Which means you can essentially prepare the chicken in the casserole dish in the morning and worry about later. Ditto for the butternut squash recipe, which I will try to avoid copywright infringement by not reciting here. Together with a happy citrus tarragon salad, I have to say that for perhaps the first time ever, I was a cool and collected hostess, having already assembled the salad and simply pulling two casserole dishes out of the oven to serve.
As for Thomas Keller, well, someday.
Appearances to the contrary, those are really hazelnuts, not olives, in the butternut squash gratin in the above picture.