I've been doing a lot of cooking this week, and it's been really nice. When my marriage ended a year ago, I was suddenly thrown back into cooking by myself again, and at first I was lost at sea. I had forgotten everything I'd known -- the touch and the feel of cooking -- that I'd had ten years earlier when I was single.
I was worried I wouldn't be any good, that I'd not cook as well as my wife had, and, while I'm sure I have a lot to learn, I've been having fun and pleasantly surprised with how my results keep getting better. Viking Chicken is one of them, and I cooked it the other night for my mother, brother and daughter, and they all asked for more, so I think it's worth passing on, even though my pictures are NOT SO GREAT.
The basic idea behind Viking Chicken is that you are cooking the really nice chicken on top of a bed of fruit (sweet) and vegetables (savory). The sweet and savory combo, mixed with chicken fat, butter and salt, is killer. And you don't need to be too picky about what the veggies are. You can clean out the refrigerator with what you've got if you like. That's why I call it "Viking," because it's sort of low brow and hard to mess up.
Sweet & Savory Viking Chicken
3 to 4-pound whole chicken
1 small lemon or clementine
Several sprigs fresh rosemary
1 to 2 large yellow onions
3 to 4 whole firm fruits such as apples, pears, or quince
1 to 2 pounds firm or crisp vegetables such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, or garlic cloves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 450°F. Set a rack in the lower-middle of the oven.
Remove the chicken from its packaging and thoroughly pat it dry. Place the lemon or clementine inside the cavity along with the whole rosemary sprigs, and truss the legs together.
Create a bed of fruits and vegetables in a roasting pan to raise the chicken off the bottom. Chop the onions and a few pieces of fruit into rings, and scatter them over the bottom of the pan. If you're using asparagus or carrots, lay them side-by-side on top of the onions in the center of the pan. Sprinkle the vegetables and fruit generously with salt and black pepper.
Set the chicken on top of the bed of fruits and vegetables. Roughly chop and scatter any remaining fruits and vegetables around the chicken.
Drizzle the chicken and all the fruits and vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Set a few pats of butter atop the chicken.
Place the chicken into the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 400°F. Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the vegetables are cooked, chicken's skin is golden, and the chicken registers 165°F in the thigh.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving. While you're waiting, toss the vegetables with the pan juices and transfer to a serving bowl. If desired, make a simple gravy with the leftover bits in the pan.
Serve while the chicken and vegetables are warm. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Related: How to Make Homemade Chicken Stock
(Images: Maxwell Ryan; Faith Durand)