Tuesday, 6 November 2007
With summer creeping up on us comes the time for lighter fare. As I will be experiencing a European winter instead of long summer days in less than two weeks, I am particularly keen to savour the simple things I know I will be missing all too soon.
Salad days involve excellent produce prepared without fuss and with minimal time actually spent in the kitchen. I'm always ready for a spring evening lingering over moist roast chicken and a bottle of wine because I know it requires mere minutes of preparation and I can read outside in the sunshine while it achieves a glorious burnished perfection. The recipe below is ideally suited to the leftovers of the said bird but I’ve been known to roast just for this purpose. While there is certainly no shortage of roast chicken recipes, this is my spring version; chicken deeply infused with rosemary and lemon and creamy slices of avocado balanced with sweet roast capsicum over a bed of perfectly dressed salad greens. There is something magical about the simplicity of chicken and avocado particularly when you drench the lot in a dressing of herby pan juices whisked with red wine vinegar. As those of you who follow this blog will know all too well, I don’t exercise a lot of restraint in gastronomic matters but this is one salad that will never leave you feeling deprived.
The warmer climate has also brought something else; a second wind of culinary inspiration. While I am unlikely to start seeking out fussy and pretentious food or enjoying laborious preparations, I am desperately keen to discover new produce, markets and local specialities both here and on my travels. Mostly importantly, perhaps, I am keen to start sharing it and writing more regularly.
Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken with Avocado Salad
1 red capsicum
4 cups mixed salad leaves
1 whole chicken, the best you can find
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Wash your bird thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Squeeze half a lemon over the chicken and once juiced place it in the cavity to infuse the chicken with its aroma during the baking. Season liberally with salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil. In a suitably large roasting pan place your chicken on a bed of rosemary. In the same tin pop in your capsicum for roasting. Add another glug of olive oil for good measure and place uncovered in an oven, preheated to 200C. After 40 minutes baste your chicken and cover with foil if browning too quickly. Remove your capsicum at this stage. It should be done within another 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the bird. Prick the thigh and if the juices run clear, you’re ready to proceed.
Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil while you prepare the salad. Skim any fat off from the pan juices and remove the rosemary. Place your tin on the stovetop and whisk in the red wine vinegar. You may require less depending on the quantity of pan juices. Season to taste.
Slip the skin off your roast capsicum to reveal the sweet flesh. Deseed and chop roughly. Halve and deseed your avocado. Slice generously. When your chicken has cooled sufficiently, shred the meat and fight off any fingers attempting to devour the crispy lemony skin.
On a large serving platter place a bed of mixed salad leaves. Top with the shredded chicken, avocado and capsicum. Drizzle with the pan juice dressing and finish with a good grinding of pepper and a handful of baby basil leaves. Serve with crusty bread and wine.