Market dinners, as we called them, constituted dinner most nights of a two-week vacation in France this May — first with my Aunt Adrienne in Brittany, then with her family and Joe joining in Paris.
In Paris, the six of us gathered whatever breads, cheeses, olives, tapenades, and other goodies had struck our eye. We’d make a big green salad and call it a night, recapping the day’s adventures as we reached for this and that.
But one Tuesday night, Adrienne and her husband Mark invited their Parisian friends Christophe and Armelle over. Joe and I cooked a five-course meal inspired from our time in Bologna, Italy. We made a pitcher of negronis alongside aperitivos and taught the group how to make fresh pasta we’d eat minutes later. Nigella Lawson pointed us to an Italian chicken with peppers, leeks and olives that nearly melted into the chicken fat.
Then, back to France we went: A salad and cheese course, followed by a merengue and a tart from the patisserie. We said goodnight to our guests five hours later and made another pitcher of negronis, migrating to the living room for late-night chatter.
The dinner party was a 2018 highlight of both Joe’s and mine. And it’s caused a near obsession with the Italian roast chicken since. My Aunt Adrienne and I have each made it a few times since May, to recall the memories from that night and for those melting vegetables.
I’ll admit. I’ve also returned to this chicken again and again because UK food gets old after three months. We’ve drastically cut down on dining out — there’s only so many meat and potatoes I can eat — and have replaced the time with walks, World Cup viewing parties, game nights, and comedy nights.
It’s a well-worn stance I’m taking: Roast chicken is the perfect food for a few meals at home. I roast a chicken and Joe makes a soup the next day from the broth and bits. Here’s how we do it.
From Adrienne: My Roast Chicken
Nigella’s recipe has slowly unraveled into a template of sorts.
I mix and match the vegetables. Sometimes it’s peppers, leeks, and olives; Recently, cauliflower and potatoes in big chunks. The spices also vary. Sometimes just salt, pepper, olive oil; other times, curry paste straight from the jar. I’ll leave the particular recipe to you, although I can’t recommend Nigella’s enough.
But two things remain consistent, no matter what:
- Let the chicken sit uncovered for at least an hour on the counter, or for a day in the fridge. This ensures maximum skin crisp which, let’s be honest, is the second best part after those melting peppers, leeks, and olives.
- Place the chicken directly on an oven rack above the sheet pan of vegetables. You’ll ensure even crisp all around the bird and an even distribution of fat onto the vegetables. Win-Win!
We eat our fill and save the rest for chicken salad or leftovers. I put the bones and bits in a pot and pass it off to Joe.
From Joe: My Chicken Soup
The best part about this recipe is that it’s not really a recipe at all. Every time I make it, I change something slightly based on the ingredients and spices I have on hand. Don’t be afraid to experiment; anything will taste delicious if you simmer it long enough!
I follow a vague template consisting of:
- Add remaining chicken bones and meat to your biggest stockpot with some roughly chopped carrots, onions, leeks, celery, and/or any other hearty vegetables you have. Add water until it reaches 2-3 inches from the top and toss in a few bay leaves, whole peeled garlic cloves, and/or dried herbs.
- Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 3-4 hours.
- Once the broth has reduced and is nice and tasty, strain out the solids. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now you have a huge stockpot of delicious chicken stock to cook with! We like to flavor sauces, cook down greens, and poach vegetables with the stock. But my favorite is chicken soup, and there isn’t much more to do but repeat what you already know.
- Fill your stockpot back up with your freshly rendered, homemade chicken stock. Add in whatever vegetables you have (root vegetables and onion-y ones work best) and some dried herbs.
- Simmer for another hour or two.
- Toss in some cooked chicken, pasta, and/or rice towards the end to help bulk it up.
- Finish with some fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of good olive oil.
That’s it! The magic isn’t the recipe itself, its the (now) twice cooked chicken broth. So many bits of flavor are locked up in those bones, cartilage, leftover meat, and accompanying vegetables — simmering them out over the course of an afternoon is the only way to let your broth shine.
If you want to take it a step farther, separate the broth and vegetables, cooked chicken, and pasta into three serving bowls. I love doing it this way because everyone can make their own personal soup combination with their perfect ratios. Also, my mom would serve the family like this, so really, there isn’t any other way.