A Low-Stress, High-Flavor Chicken Dinner for a Sleepy Summer Evening
Dearest food friends,
How does anybody get anything done during the summer? I don’t know what your life is like, but even though I am blessed with air conditioning and plenty of ice cubes, I am moving around my house, followed by my two droopy dogs, as if I were being filmed in chopping in slow motion for the instant replay:
“You see here, Chip, where she was cutting the vegetables. Look at that technique! That’s kicking it old school!”
“That’s right, Stan. Babson is the OG of slicing and dicing, and no matter what American food she cooks, it’s BEAUCOUP French-influenced!”
If only the culture took traditional women’s activities generally seriously enough to want to watch them in instant replay, to pay us star athlete salaries, because, beloved food friend, you are my BIG LEAGUE HERO if you can manage to keep a house that doesn’t attract the attention of the department of health, keep the members of your household healthy and fed, and more or less get dressed for a day of your domestic or professional endeavors, particularly in the Summer months, where insects buzz, the lawn overgrown, and the dogs are too sleepy to chase the squirrels.
Sometimes, I feel like cooking a challenging dish. Not so much now. Right now, if I can get it done easily, I will.
Last week I showed you something I had done with leftover asparagus wrapped in bacon. Today, I am giving you the OG, the original goods.
I wanted to slap together a meal from my fridge. I wanted, if possible, to smack it all in the oven at once and just forget it until I heard the alarm sound. I knew I would need to chop stuff, but I wasn’t interested in a big production. But I decided to make it pretty when it was done. Here’s what it looked like at the end — fancy, n’est-ce pas?
But this wasn’t all that hard to make. Chopped a bit, I managed to put it all in the oven at once, though I took each thing out at different times.
This was a night where I stuck my head in the fridge to cool it off a bit and see what I could grab in order to make something lovely. I saw a whole chicken I had bought on sale. I saw asparagus — one of the vegetables I find it easy to get my husband to eat. I had a bunch of red potatoes, which had also been on sale. I had a couple of red onions, too.
I also had on the shelf some apricot jam, some apricots, some mandarin oranges, and in the meat drawer, there was some bacon.
I turned the oven on to 400 degrees.
Bacon may not be the thing doctors recommend we eat the most, but it really does taste delicious and go with many dishes. It’s a good thing that they haven’t loaded bacon with caffeine, or I would both gain weight and zip around manically, even in this summer heat. I swear I could eat bacon three times a day if it weren’t so utterly rotten for our cardio-vascular systems in large quantities. I could probably make a dessert out of bacon. You know I said that because the devil is tempting me! Get thee behind me, Satan! I resist you AND your overabundant pig grease!
Beloved food friend, you are my BIG LEAGUE HERO if you can manage to keep a house that doesn’t attract the attention of the department of health, keep the members of your household healthy and fed, and more or less get dressed for a day of your domestic or professional endeavors, particularly in the Summer months, where insects buzz, the lawn overgrown, and the dogs are too sleepy to chase the squirrels.
Anyhow, I decided the easiest way to make the asparagus I saw in the fridge taste flavorful was to wrap it in bacon. It was easier than chopping up six different kinds of herbs (I did chop parsley). I wrapped it around as shown here, tossed it in the pan, and sprinkled it with pepper and parsley — the bacon is salty enough that I didn’t think I needed to cook it with any salt.
I also chopped some red potatoes in large chunks, some red unions in large chunks, and tossed them in vegetable oil. I added slices of butter, half a stick’s worth, salt, pepper, and parsley. You can see that I didn’t exactly exhaust myself mincing any ingredients here. Everything is coarsely sliced, even the parsley.
I spent slightly more time fussing over my whole chicken. It was small, and I wanted it to taste nice, but I didn’t want cooking it to be a hassle. I sliced up the several apricots I found in the fridge (taking out the pits — don’t cook with those!) and put them in the cavity of the bird, not as stuffing, but to flavor the bird as it cooked. I sliced up some mandarin oranges and put them in the bottom of the pan. I put the bird on top of the fruit slices; that way, it wouldn’t stick to the Pyrex. I normally add wine as well to braise the bird, but this time, I just didn’t feel like pulling a cork out of a bottle. It felt like too much work. Besides, I was going to make it flavorful another way.
Instead of braising the chicken in wine, as I often do, I decided instead to glaze it. I took a quarter cup of apricot jam and squeezed the juice of two over-ripe mandarins into the same cup. I added salt and pepper. I stirred a little, and put it in the microwave for about a minute and a half. I stirred the jam and juice together until they formed a slightly goopy but consistent mixture, and I basted it all over the skin of the chicken. If I had been lazier still, I could have just poured it over the chicken and let it leave some places uncoated, other places coated.
I put everything in in the oven at once. I took the asparagus out after about 45 minutes. I took the potatoes and chicken out after about an hour and a half.
My dinner looks a lot harder to make than it was, particularly on my pretty platter. Trust me. Trust me as I write this in my pyjamas at dawn on Sunday morning, as I went back to bed after feeding the dogs and letting them run around a little while outside until they succumbed to the heat and felt like going back to bed. I did not overexert myself in making this lazy meal. Neither will you.
I wish you many ice cubes and few tears, food friends. I wish you something good to eat and something good to read. I wish you a day off. I wish you credit for all the good things you do that it feels like nobody notices. I am not there watching over your shoulder, but I know. I get it. We don’t get the attention of the instant replay. Maybe we should slow down a little, drink something cool, watch the lizard on the bricks outside wait for a bug it can bite. Maybe we should call an old friend, who is also still in her pyjamas, catch up with her, laugh. Dinner won’t quite take care of itself, but nearly. See above.
1 small whole chicken, about 5 pounds.
1 package of bacon
5 medium-sized red potatoes
2 red onions
6 mandarin oranges
At my grocery store, the ingredients for this meal sell for about $60 today, but chances are you have some of these ingredients in your possession right now. You will clearly have leftover bacon and apricot jam after this, so think what breakfast the next lazy summer day might look like!
Anne’s Lazy Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
1 bunch of asparagus
4 pieces of bacon
1 tbsp. Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste.
Set the oven to 400 degrees
Chop off the tough ends at the base of the asparagus stalks. Divide the bunch of asparagus into four portions.
Wrap each of the asparagus potions with the bacon.
Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the bacon looks done.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Anne’s Lazy Red Potatoes with Red Onions
4 large red potatoes
2 red onions
3 tbsp. Vegetable oil
1/2 stick of butter cut in slices.
1/4 cup of coarsely=chopped parsley.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Set oven to 400 degrees
Coarsely chop the potatoes and onions.
Mix these with the oil, butter, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
Bake for an hour.
Anne’s Somewhat Lazy Apricot-Glazed Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, about 5 pounds.
6 apricots, pitted and quartered
6 mandarin oranges — 4 sliced, 2 halved (these two are for the glaze)
1/4 apricot preserves (or jam)
Chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Set the oven to 400 degrees.
Squeeze the juice out of the two halved mandarins. Pour this into a tea cup or another microwave-safe bowl or cup.
Stuff the chicken cavity with the quarter apricots. NOTE: If you have parsley stems, you might put these in the cavity as well. You might also put the two mandarins you are using for the glaze, once you have squeezed the juice out of them, in the cavity with the apricot. You are not going to eat these ingredients. They are there to infuse flavor into the chicken. You will discard them after cooking.
Arrange the sliced mandarins in the base of a roasting pan.
Place the stuffed chicken on the mandarin slices.
Add the apricot preserves to the cup containing the mandarin juice. Stir until it is a consistent mixture.
Microwave this cup on high for about a minute.
Take a basting brush and coat the chicken with the apricot-mandarin glaze in the cup.
Roast the chicken for about an hour and a half.
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