The holidays can be a busy time for anybody, but especially for home cooks, who may be tapped to provide festive nourishment for any of a host of events: office parties, cocktail parties, family gatherings, community events, charity auctions, cookie swaps, and on and on.
It can be a lot of fun, but a lot of work too. At the end of the season of giving, one can feel quite tapped out. So this week, rather than present fabulously elaborate dishes to share with family for Christmas, I'm going in the opposite direction. This month may be about others, but this week is all about you. These are dishes you can make to please yourself: homey comfort foods, a culinary "pat on the back" if you will.
I featured this Roasted Chicken with Greens and Bread Salad back in April, but it tastes really good this time of year, so I'm offering it up again as the perfect fall-to-winter comfort food. Really, this dish would be good whenever. It's one of my favorites. I couldn't find fresh thyme, so I substituted some dried thyme sprinkled below and on top the roasted chicken.
Roasted Chicken with Greens and Bread Salad
Adapted from Zuni Roasted Chicken with Bread Salad by Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe
1 bunch of fresh thyme (or 2 tbsp. dried thyme)
1 1/2 lb. boneless-skinless chicken breasts
11/2 lb. boneless-skinless chicken thighs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoned salt to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. crusty Italian or peasant bread
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. currants
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Ground sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
4 scallions, white end chopped with a little bit of the green part
2 tbsp. lightly salted water
4 cups of arugula (or other salad greens)
1. Preheat broiler with oven rack about 5 inches from heating element. Cut crust off bread and discard or use for other purpose. Tear and slice bread into pieces of about 1 to 2 inches. Put bread pieces in a large bowl, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and toss to coat. Spread bread pieces onto a baking sheet and broil to lightly toast, about 1-2 minutes (watch carefully, they will burn easily, especially if you hand tear the bread). When done, allow to cool and then put bread pieces back in the large bowl.
2. Preheat oven to 375 F (it won't take as long since the broiler was just on). In a 9 x 13 baking dish, arrange the fresh thyme sprigs on the bottom of the pan. Pat chicken pieces dry and place on top of the thyme. Brush chicken pieces with olive oil and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Put in oven and roast until internal temperature of chicken is about 165 F (should take about 20-30 minutes).
3. While chicken is roasting, prepare the bread salad. Put the currants in small bowl and add red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. water. Set them aside to plump while you prepare the other ingredients. Whisk 1/4 cup of good quality extra-virgin olive oil with the white wine vinegar and ground sea salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 cup of the dressing to the toasted bread and toss to coat (the remaining tbsp. of dressing will be used later for the greens).
4. Heat a small (8-inch) frying pan over medium-low heat. Toast pine nuts in pan until fragrant and lightly browned (doesn't take long, watch carefully and keep nuts moving to avoid burning). Remove from pan and add to bowl with dressed bread. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to pan. Add sliced garlic and chopped scallions and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add to bread. Drain currants and add to bread.
5. Place bread mixture in a small (8 x 8) baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. salted water over the bread mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven to warm during the last 7-8 minutes of time when the chicken is roasting.
6. Add arugula to large bowl and toss with remaining white wine vinaigrette. When broad mixture comes out of oven, remove from pan, add to bowl and toss with greens. Serve bread salad under roasted chicken pieces.