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Seriously Simple: Vertical roasting is a favorite technique
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Seriously Simple: Vertical roasting is a favorite technique

From the 5 cozy recipes to try this week series
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Vertical roasting produces an evenly browned chicken every time.

You can never have enough great chicken recipes. And this is particular recipe my fallback Friday night dinner, because it is so easy to put together after a long, busy week.

You’ll need a vertical roasting rack (you can find one on Amazon or other cooking stores) for this recipe. If you don’t want to invest in one, try a used beer can. Vertical roasting produces an evenly browned chicken every time.

I prefer cooking the chicken at 425 F, which keeps the meat juicy and the skin browned and crisp. The blending of grainy Dijon mustard along with sweet balsamic and soy sauce is a nice balance of flavors for the marinade, which adds color and depth of flavor to the simple chicken taste. The addition of prunes and cognac bring a touch of fruity sweetness. The orange yam nuggets add a welcome color. Watch carefully; if it begins to brown too quickly, you can tent the top with aluminum foil to protect the chicken from burning.

I especially like that you can carve the bird right off the vertical roaster in the pan, which avoids the need for a carving board. Then spoon the vegetables and juices all around the chicken pieces. Serve this on a platter or on individual plates. To drink: Try an assertive red wine, like a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon, or a Rhone varietal such as a syrah. If you prefer white, try sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Prunes and Thyme

Serves 4 (with leftovers)

For the marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garlic seasoning salt

For the chicken:

  • One 4 to 4 1/2-pound chicken, cleaned and patted dry
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 large yams, peeled and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup cognac or Armagnac
  • 1 cup chicken stock and more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Thyme leaves, for garnish

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl, mixing to blend. Taste for seasoning.

2. Place the chicken on a foil lined chopping board and, starting around the main body cavity, carefully slip your hand under the skin, being sure not to tear it. (You may need to use gloves if you have long fingernails.) Pat the marinade under the skin and all over the bird on both sides on top of the skin. (At this point you can place in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate up to 8 hours ahead or continue directly with next step.)

3. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place the chicken on a vertical roaster that is sitting on a sheet pan with a lip to catch the juices. Sprinkle the leeks, yams, prunes and cognac or Armagnac around the pan. Add 1 cup of stock, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Mix to combine.

4. Roast the chicken for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a knife. The thigh should be 165 F. Halfway through the cooking, add more chicken stock if the pan is dry, to keep the bottom of the pan from scorching. Let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Loosely cover with foil. Carve the chicken and arrange on a serving platter. Arrange the juices and vegetables around the chicken pieces and serve.

Advance preparation: This dish can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead through Step,1 covered and left at room temperature. This is also excellent served cold.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)

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