I hit an inspirational cooking block this summer. It’s not that I stopped cooking, I was just making food because we had to eat without much enthusiasm. I knew it would pass, as these things do, and that I just had to wait out the doldrums and stick with comforting meals that didn’t dirty too many dishes in the meantime. So we ate pounds of pesto, lots of grilled meat, and hundreds of spinach and kale salads—which were tasty and kept us fed, but not in the least bit memorable.
In the past week, the mornings have been crisp and the evenings are becoming downright chilly (yes, even in San Diego). This is my favorite season on the cooking calendar, so I wondered if fall soups, winter squash, citrus, and roasted meat could be my ticket back to home cooking happiness.
On my next visit to the grocery store, I picked up some thyme and two chicken halves intending to throw them onto a baking sheet for an easy weeknight dinner. Then, Sunday morning as I was cleaning up breakfast, a yellow beacon called out from the back of the fridge –my jar of preserved lemons. They spoke to me. I had a plan.
With the addition of some rainbow carrots and onions I had on hand, I pulled together a chicken with roasted vegetables and the bright, briny preserved lemons.This dish came together beautifully. Using two halves instead of a whole chicken reduced the cooking time and allowed the skin to get perfectly golden and crispy. It was easy enough to pull together on a Sunday morning, but felt luxurious as a lunch.
With a pot of soup bubbling on the stove for dinner, I’m joyfully digging through my favorite cookbooks tabbing recipes for Christmas dinner. I’m back on track and ready to spend fall in the kitchen.
Roast Chicken w. Thyme & Preserved Lemon
- 2 chicken halves (1.6-2 lbs each half; you could use a whole chicken but you will need to increase the cooking time, plus I think the two halves produce incredible golden, crunchy skin with evenly moist dark and light meat. The two halves were cheap too – just $2.88 each at my grocery store!)
- 6 rainbow or regular carrots: washed, peeled, and sliced into 1.5 inch pieces
- 2 large yellow onions: cut into 1/8th wedges
- 12-20 springs of thyme
- 1 preserved lemon (Preserved lemons are available at many grocery stores and can be used in lots of dishes including salad dressing, marinades, and roasts. They’re also easy and cost-effective to make at home. I like this recipe and suggest using Meyer lemons and adding a bay leaf, whole cloves, and whole black peppercorns.)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- White pepper (black will do here too, but I like the subtle flavor of white pepper and suggest you use it if you have it on hand.)
1. Heat your oven to 425. Prepare the carrots and onion then place in the bottom of a roasting pan. Toss with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Place the two chicken halves on top of the bed of vegetables skin side up. Drizzle the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over the chicken halves and rub the oil all over the chicken, making sure the skin in coated. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Wash the preserving liquid off of your lemon and tear it into segments. Tuck two lemon pieces under the chicken wings and place the remaining pieces in the roasting pan with the vegetables.
4. Tuck most of your thyme springs under the chicken halves and place a few directly in the vegetable mix. Place your assembled dish in your hot oven and cook for 30-40 minutes.
5. Check for doneness once the skin is crispy and golden. When ready, remove the chicken from the roasting pan and place on a cutting board to rest.
6. Place the pan of vegetables back in the oven for 7-10 more minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before carving to ensure you don’t lose all of the good juices you’ve sealed in the meat.
7. Carve the chicken, pull your vegetables out of the oven, remove the thyme twigs, and serve with half of a fresh lemon to squeeze over the roast vegetables. The preserved lemons are edible and pair well with bites of chicken.