*This post is in partnership with Dietz & Watson. They believe that one of the best choices we can make is the table. To gather friends, family, strangers and sit at the table in the presence of good food.
A couple weeks ago I did just that. Surrounded by old and new friends we enjoyed a feast cooked for us by Top Chef alum, Giselle Wellman. We enjoyed the best tomato soup I’ve ever had along with thick cut grilled cheese croutons for dipping. There was crisp bacon over buttery lettuce, pastrami with duck breast, and a goat cheese stuffed blintz. Dietz & Watson would like you to enjoy that experience too. Enter here for a chance to win a private dinner with Giselle Wellman, September 9th in Gig Harbor Washington.
“We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”
No matter where we are in life or what’s happening in the world around us I always come back to the table. Never once have I questioned the importance of the table. The act of sitting down to enjoy a meal, abundant or meager, looking into the faces of those you love or people you’ve just met. To come weary or strong, our humanity unites us. We all are hungry. Food is the medium to draw us together to refuel, connect, and attempt to make sense of the world or perhaps set that aside for a few hours to laugh until your stomach hurts.
With summer produce at its peak there is very little I feel I need to do before gathering people at the table. This toast, simple in its creation, is a cozy and satisfying way to highlight the glut of tomatoes currently bursting in the garden. A smokey horseradish adds a bit of warmth under a blanket of cheese, melted until bubbly and golden. Fresh tomatoes are showered on top with a crunch of toasted coriander seeds and flake salt. Bring a platter of warm toasts to the table and a simple salad of peppery arugula leaves slick with olive oil and lemon juice and you are set.
Let’s all choose the table as often as we can. Good things happen there.
Set an oven rack just under your broiler. Place the bread on a sheet pan. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or just until golden. Remove from the oven then spread the untoasted sides with a bit of horseradish sauce. Top with a couple of pieces of cheese then return the tray to the oven. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Add the tomatoes, coriander seeds and a pinch of flake salt to each piece of toast.
It takes a lot for me to say something is perfect. Perfection isn’t really worth striving for but for us this chicken is as close as it gets.
There are endless variations. Sometimes there’s a mustard laced butter studded with herbs that I nudge under the skin. Other times there are a few lemons and shallots tucked into the cavity. More often than not there is a bed of potatoes roasting alongside But this version, in its most basic form is the one I turn to again and again. And as the first sign of cooler weather is making its appearance I have this simple roast chicken to look forward to on repeat.
While the herbs are still abundant in the market make this vibrant sauce to accompany. Later in the season I recommend switching to a seedy mustard aioli with perhaps a few pickled peppers finely minced and thrown in there as well.
1 bunch scallions (about 5 to 7), white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 cups herbs (mint, dill, chives) finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest and juice from a medium lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
This step is absolutely key. Thoroughly salt and pepper the chicken 12 - 24 hours in advance.
We were once taught that salt should be applied just before cooking meat as it draws water out leaving the meat dry and tough BUT when you salt well in advance some water is drawn out and then reabsorbed. The salt not only flavors the skin but makes its way deeper into the flesh seasoning throughout. Each bite is perfectly seasoned - not tasting salty but rather more of chicken. Salting 1-3 days in advance actually makes the meat more moist and tender. I do this for virtually all meat, with the exception of tender fish.
Place the chicken on a tray or large bowl and let it sit uncovered in the bottom of the fridge away from foods that will be consumed raw. Left uncovered the skin dries out and gets even more delightfully crisp in the oven.
Having said all that there are times when I've not planned ahead and simply salted even as little as 30 minutes in advance and still enjoyed the results.
To Truss or Not to Truss
I don’t bother tying the chicken into some sort of position fit for a contortionist. I like the hot oven to reach as much of the skin as possible.
Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes prior to roasting. The hot oven is what makes the skin blister and turn deep golden.
Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before roasting so it has a chance to come to take the chill off which will allow the meat to cook more evenly.
Over high-heat add a bit of olive oil and butter to a 12-inch cast iron skillet (you can also use a small roasting pan or skillet). When the skillet is smoking carefully add the chicken breast side down. Sear the chicken for 3 minutes and then carefully transfer the entire skillet into the pre-heated oven. This is a method I developed out common sense and a bit of laziness, I admit. Searing first on the stove sets the skin and keeps the breast moist. I don’t bother basting, flipping, poking or prodding the chicken until it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes. At that point I plunge a thermometer deep into the thigh and remove it from the oven when the temperature reaches 160°F. I then let the chicken rest in the pan for 20 minutes before I serve or cut into it. During the resting time the meat will continue to cook and come up to the safe 165°F. It will also allow the meat to relax and the juices to distribute.
My favorite part of this process, besides eating dinner, is flipping over the chicken after its roasted to reveal a dark, crusty chicken speckled with pepper and covered in a salty, crunchy skin. Always serve the chicken breast side up.
Prepare the green sauce.
In a bowl stir together the scallions, herbs, garlic, lemon (zest and juice), olive oil, salt, pepper, and mustard seeds. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. It should be quite pungent.