It's cold. Relatively, of course, because if this were March and the temperature climbed to 65 degrees I'd be frolicking outside in my sandals and sundresses. But no, it's September; we are in the beginning slow descent to winter just after an incredibly hot summer. We (Murray and I) sat at my desk today (he curled up on my lap) and looked outside at the dreary gray afternoon. It's cold and ugly out there and we are warm and cozy in here. How long ago summer seems after just a few days of this weather!
This is all silly talk, of course, because summer food has not ended. I still have tomatoes and eggplants doing their best to fatten up and tip my plants over with their weight. Sadly we lost the our butternut squash and pumpkin plants to squash bugs--evil little creatures that steal the water from the vines until the plants wither away to nothing. (I will be more prepared for them next year, if I decide to plant squash again.) My herbs, especially the basil, oregano, and thyme, have stretched upwards and outwards. I can't use them fast enough to control the growth.
Perhaps the garden story from this summer that I will forever remember pertains to the tomato plants given to us by my sister Amy and her husband Dustin. They have a vegetable garden along the sides of their house and have been wildly successful growing tomatoes and summer squash. The Roma tomatoes that they planted last year sprouted again, somewhat unexpectedly, and they didn't have enough room to keep them. Dustin offered them to us, which we gladly accepted, and we planted them along the sunny side of our house. We all thought that all five plants were Roma's until I noticed one of the plants had clusters of flowers in a much different configuration than the rest.
It was definitely not a Roma--and it turned out to be a red cherry tomato plant. The funny part--Amy and Dustin didn't grow any cherry tomato plants last year. We concluded that it must be a result of...well...bird poop. I try not to think about it that little detail because this plant keeps on producing beautiful cherry tomatoes. I have already decided next year I will focus more on cherry tomatoes in our garden plans because they are so incredibly useful. We've tossed them in salads, on pizza (new pizza dough recipe coming soon!), and in my new go-to early fall dinner, Spatchcocked Chicken with Tomatoes.
This chicken is so incredibly simple; it's one of those throw-it-all-in-a-pot types where you can go back to the couch and drink a glass of wine while the oven does all of the work. It's a quick meal too since you use the high-roast method, and the only other thing you need to do is make couscous or a green salad to go on the side. Tim loves it because the cherry tomatoes mix with the cooking liquid to concentrate the flavor and end up tasting like little bites of fruity tomato sauce.
Truthfully, after a few months of fried egg sandwiches, grilled vegetables, clean-out-the-refrigerator salads, and carry out, I'm glad to be back in the kitchen with the oven on. It feels good to be in a meal-time routine, to be feeding my husband, to be thoughtful about what we are eating. And even though I've been complaining to Tim about the cold weather, I secretly like it. It brings me back to the kitchen.
Spatchcocked Chicken with Tomatoes
slightly adapted from Everyday Food
For more information on how to spatchcock a chicken, read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle with images and instructions.
No picture here of the final product (it was starting to get dark outside and the pic is dim), though you can see it over on my instagram feed if you are really curious. Visually, you are looking for a crispy skin and the liquid to reduce down, but most importantly the chicken needs to reach the internal temperature noted. And don't rush it to the table--it benefits greatly from resting.
1 three to four pound whole chicken, spatchcocked
3 unpeeled garlic cloves, smashed
1 pint cherry tomatoes (a mix of colors is prettiest, but not necessary)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 dry cooking sherry or dry white wine
1/4 cup water
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano
salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Season chicken with salt & pepper and place breast side up in a heavy pot like a dutch oven or a roasting pan. Add garlic cloves. With the tip of a paring knife, pierce the skin of the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pot. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper. Pour sherry and water into the pot. Nestle sprigs of herbs around and on top of the chicken.
Roast chicken until internal temperature reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and juices run clear, about 30-35 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes, then carve into four pieces (2 breast, 2 thigh and leg).