Roast Chicken with Spiced Root Veggies
The most beautiful thing about those humble veggies which grow out of sight underground is that their true character shines most brightly in this darkest of seasons. It’s as if they’ve found a way to store all the warmth and goodwill of a summer evening within their rich earthy colours, which come to life again when you put them in an oven to roast. As a kid, I thought I could take ’em or leave ’em – especially beets, which I frankly hated. But they grow on you – and when you realize you can create some really complex and magical flavours by marrying them with a range of unexpected spices, winter meals with root vegetables become something to write home about. Oh – they also go really, really well with chicken. Folklore has it that a roasted chicken is the way to a future (or present) spouse’s heart. Roast Chicken with Spiced Root Veggies? That should really be something!
- One whole chicken, spatchcocked. That just means taking a pair of good strong kitchen shears, and starting on one side of the tail, cutting through the ribs vertically along the backbone right up to the neck – then repeating on the other side of the tail. With the backbone removed, the chicken can be laid flat for roasting – virtually guaranteeing an even roast, in about half the time. Spatchcocking, also known as “butterflying” the chicken, is a time-honored roasting method – mainly because it works so well.
- 3 medium or 2 large sweet potatoes (a.k.a. Beauregard yams)
- 4 medium beets, tops removed. Wash well – no need to peel them.
- Coarse salt
- 4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil, or coconut oil. Something fragrant – not just plain vegetable oil.
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried basil flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh or dried rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You heard me – this one starts hot.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 3 cm cubes
- Wash and cut the beets into 3 cm cubes.
- In two separate pots, boil the beets and sweet potatoes for approximately 15 minutes. This cuts the roasting time for the vegetables, so that they’re done when the chicken is done. This technique is known as “parboiling”, and has reduced much roasting anxiety in my house.
- While the veggies parboil, in a small bowl mix the balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, half the oil, brown sugar, rosemary and basil. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
- Drain the veggies well, and pour them into a ceramic baking dish, like a lasagne pan, in an even layer across the bottom.
- Sprinkle on the rest of the oil, tossing the vegetables lightly to coat them well.
- Sprinkle on some coarse salt.
- Sprinkle on the nutmeg and cinnamon, getting a bit on all of the pieces.
- Spread the spatchcocked chicken flat, breast-side up, and sprinkle on seasoning salt and onion powder, rubbing it in well.
- Lay the chicken on top of the vegetables.
- Gently brush on about half of the balsamic sauce, covering the whole chicken and ensuring some of the herbs are evenly spread over the surface of the skin.
- Sprinkle on some coarse salt.
- Put the chicken into the oven, and bake at 500F for about 15 minutes. The skin will begin to turn brown already.
- Pull the dish out, turn the oven down to 400F, and quickly and efficiently brush the rest of the balsamic sauce onto the chicken.
- Put the dish back in the oven. If you have a meat thermometer, stick it in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone, and bake the dish for another 20-25 minutes, or until the thermometer reads 165-170 degrees. The skin will turn a lovely mahogany and ebony brown, and taste absolutely divine.
Remove from the oven, let it rest for about 10 minutes, then cut into recognizable chicken parts and serve. Spoon some of that delicious sauce onto the vegetables, and get set for an exotic, spicy, sunny winter’s dinner.