What comes to mind when you hear the words 'Comfort Food'? Mashed potatoes with gravy? Southern fried chicken? Warm biscuits with a pat of melting butter? Unfortunately, many of our favorite comfort foods are some of the worst for us. However, with a little tweaking and a dash of know-how, you can cook a comforting and healthy meal, without sacrificing flavor.
When I awoke yesterday morning and saw frost on the grass outside, I knew it was the perfect day to make dinner for my family. What's better than sitting down on a cold evening, and enjoying a warm, filling meal together? Not much, in my book! My parents are from Iowa, so their idea of supper is meat, potatoes with gravy, and vegetables covered in butter. Tasty, but not exactly the most heart-friendly meal. So when I'm cooking for my parents, I like to make it hearty yet healthy, and simple but flavorful.
I've said it before and I'll say it again- I LOVE using seasonal produce. There's something almost spiritual about using the fruits and vegetables that flourish in each season. Not to mention they're at the peak of ripeness and flavor! Another favorite seasonal ingredient? Apples. They're no longer just for brown-bag lunches and snacks on the go. Apples pair wonderfully with Autumn's wide variety of seasonings and produce, so I decided to make it the star of our meal. I roasted a whole chicken with apple cider and herbs. Then, I combined apples with parsnips and carrots, and seasoned them with salt, black pepper and sage. Finally, I reduced apple cider and served it to drizzle over the vegetables and chicken. It was the perfect ending to such a chilly night. My family loved it, and we decided it was 'blog worthy,' so here it is!
Apple Cider Chicken and Seasonal Vegetables with Sage Serves about 3 with left over chicken
1 whole chicken
1 1/3 cup medium diced carrots
3/4 cup medium diced parsnips
2 1/3 cup large diced apples
2 cups apple cider plus a couple of tablespoons
1 dried Bay leaf
Special Equipment: Deep dish chicken cooker like this or an oven safe bowl and a beer or soda can.
1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine 1 cup apple cider, 1 teaspoon fresh Rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, a pinch dried Thyme, a small pinch ground cloves, and a whole bay leaf. If you're using the chicken cooker, pour the mixture into the well. If you're using an oven safe bowl and a can, pour the mixture into the empty can, and set in the center of the bowl. Place the chicken on top of the well or the can (make sure the chicken is steadied by the sides of the bowl, so the can won't spill)
3. Brush the chicken with olive oil, and season with sea salt and black pepper.
4. Place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, checking at 30 minutes. The thighs should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
5. In a small sauce pan, combine about a cup of apple cider, a pinch of black pepper, and a few sprigs of Rosemary. Boil the cider until it has reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
6. To cook the vegetables, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom with olive oil. Add the carrots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the parsnips. Add about 2 tablespoons apple cider, cover, and cook for about 5 more minutes. When the carrots and parsnips are nearly tender, add the apples and sprinkle with dried sage. Toss and cook until the apples are slightly softened.
7. When the chicken has finished cooking, let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
8. Serve the reduced cider on the side to pour over the chicken and vegetables. Enjoy!