Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Maple Butternut Squash Risotto

Two of my absolute favourite things to cook are the jumping off point for this fantastic Sunday (or any other night) dinner... roast chicken and risotto. I see both as blank canvases where you can add seasonal flavours or elements to make a crowd-pleasing meal at any point during the year. A roast chicken and risotto in spring might feature loads of lemon, mint, and young new green peas. A roast chicken and risotto in the winter might feature root vegetables from the cold room, rosemary, and lots of red wine. 

On the cusp of a short fall and a clawing winter, I felt like this sort of comforting, transformative meal was exactly what our household needed after a long overdue weekend of relaxation and home time.

We visited our favourite Bridgeland Market on the weekend to gather some ingredients and also get our pumpkin for the annual market pumpkin giveaway... the jumping off point for the meal came as I walked down one of the aisles and spotted a can of Farmer's Market organic butternut squash (check out their products and the great recipes on their website.. I have bookmarked a few already). It seemed like the perfect starting place for this meal.

Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Herbes de Provence
Maple Butternut Squash Risotto
Maple Gravy

Ingredients (for the whole meal):
1 whole chicken
5 garlic cloves (3 for the chicken, 2 for risotto)
1 small shallot or 1/2 small onion
1 cup arborio rice
2L chicken or vegetable stock (any remaining stock can be used to deglaze your roasting pan)
Wine (for drinking and for risotto)
Butter (for the chicken massage.. hahah.. and the risotto)
Olive oil (for both again)
1 can butternut squash puree or freshly made butternut squash puree
Parmesan cheese to finish risotto
Maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Herbes de provence
Flour and milk for a quick slurry to thicken your gravy
Carrots, peas or any other vegetable of your choosing to serve alongside and add freshness

First, start your chicken... heat your oven to 450F. My three pound chicken is going to take 90 minutes to cook. Here the roasted chicken recipe from a few months ago... but, instead of the lemon, I put some garlic in the cavity, massaged butter into the flesh, drizzled a bit of olive oil over, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence.

While your chicken roasts, you can get the rest of your ingredients in order. Chop your onion or shallot, garlic, heat your stock, and portion your rice for the risotto. After twenty minutes, turn your oven down to 400F. Pour yourself a glass of wine or something that you can sip and enjoy, turn on some music, chat with your people, then turn your attention to the risotto. (But don't forget to baste the bird throughout the cooking process!)

In terms of timing, consider your roasting time for the chicken, plus ten minutes of resting, then 5+ minutes to carve it. So, for me, it would be an hour and forty-five minutes until the chicken would be ready to eat. Start your risotto when your chicken has about 45-50 minutes left. You can definitely make risotto more quickly but the whole point of this meal is to be slow and leisurely, not zippy or stressful. 

Follow the risotto techniques from the asparagus or mushroom risottos. Slowly slowly saute your onions in the melted butter-olive oil until they are translucent and fragrant, add your garlic and more saute time, add your rice and let it work until it is slightly translucent around the edges and almost toasted. Add some wine, then let the rice absorb it. Now, enjoy your risotto... add a cup of stock, stir and let it absorb. Repeat. After about thirty minutes of slow, low temperature work, taste your rice to check its consistency. It should be creamy but not mushy. (Now, check your chicken and test the internal temperature. If done, remove to a plate on the counter, cover with foil, and let rest.)

Add your butternut squash puree (I used about 3/4 of the 15oz can... the rest went into the spoiled dog's kibble). Stir together and let it bubble and merry. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly. Finish with a good grating of parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of maple syrup. It should add a very mild sweetness that compliments the butternut squash well. 

Now, finish your gravy (or make a quick gravy) and carve your chicken. Deglaze your roasting pan with any remaining chicken stock or wine. Add your slurry of milk and flour. Whisk in. Add a scant tablespoon of maple syrup here as well. Check the seasoning (and add salt and pepper as needed). Stir together. Let thicken while you carve the chicken.

Set the chicken on a serving plate. Add the risotto. Put the gravy in a pitcher. Set your meal triumphantly in front of those that you love. Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy. 

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