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April 17, 2011

The best meals often surprise me with their simplicity. Take tonight’s dinner: chicken and fresh vegetables mingled with lemon, garlic olive oil, thyme, a splash of white wine and some salt and pepper. Roasted in a 450 degree oven for a minimal amount of time, dinner came together quickly and easily, and yet had fantastic depth and flavor. And even though we woke up to snow on the ground yesterday and it was too cold to enjoy spending much time outside this weekend, the hint of lemon and the fresh asparagus was evidence that spring really is here to stay.

A wise woman showed me many years ago the benefits of cooking bone-in, skin-on chicken but adding seasoning underneath the skin itself. Once you get over the yuck factor of slipping your hand in between the skin and the meat (it sounds gross, right? Or am I just a pansy?) you too will see that it’s a great way to season the chicken without requiring the time or advance planning needed for marinading.

A brief note on technique and I’ll get to the recipe – if you’re planning on mincing garlic, the hands down easiest way to peel and break a garlic clove is to smash it with a chef’s knife. Just position the clove of garlic in between a cutting board and the blade of the knife, and either push down on the blade with your palm or use the palm-side of your fist to quickly and forcefully hit the blade. Once the garlic is smashed to bits, the skin comes off easily.

Oven Roasted Chicken and Spring Vegetables 

I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, but this meal only requires about 10 minutes of prep time and really is fast and easy to put together.

  • 12 ounces asparagus
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1 cup very small fingerling potatoes or diced yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • Half a lemon, zested and cut into four wedges
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or chicken quarters
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and skins removed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 3 teaspoons fresh
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large and a small baking sheet with foil.

Trim the woody ends off of the asparagus, and snap asparagus stalks into two or three roughly equally-sized pieces. Slice onion into pieces 1/2 inch thick by 2-3 inches long.

On the large baking sheet, combine the asparagus, onion, potatoes, mushrooms, lemon zest, white wine and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.

Pat chicken dry, and place on the smaller baking sheet. Gently slide your hand in between the skin and the meat on the chicken. Season the meat with thyme and salt, and place lemon wedges and the smashed garlic in between the skin and the meat. Rub remaining olive oil over the skin and season with salt and pepper.

Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, until skin is blistered and golden brown and juices run clear. 10 minutes into the baking, put the vegetables in the oven (they only need 20 minutes of cooking time).

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