Sunday Night Roast Chicken & The Family Dinner
One of the nicest things about going on vacation with kids that are old enough to swim by themselves is that you can actually read by the pool. This may sound like a small thing, but after eight years of hovering nervously over my children while on vacation, it’s very liberating. The point of all this is that I finally had a chance to read Laurie David’s new cookbook, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, and have been brimming with excitement to tell you about it ever since. The book is so much more than just a collection of interesting recipes (though there are many by co-author Kirstin Uhrenholdt), it’s an inspirational guide to making dinnertime a special ritual in your home.
David, best known as the producer of An Inconvenient Truth and ex-wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David, understands that dinnertime is not always easy: life is busy, kids are antsy or texting, husbands are distracted, and a meal that takes two hours to prepare is inhaled in less than ten minutes. To help, she offers lots of recipes and fun ideas like theme nights, table games and conversation starters to make dinner fun and encourage families to linger at the table. She also shares traditions and candid stories from her own parenting journey—from babies to teenagers to divorce—and shows how the simple ritual of dinner kept everyone connected and together through it all. I’m a big fan of hers (and her ex) and loved how the book felt like chatting over coffee at her kitchen table.
If you take only a few ideas from the book, I think you’ll find it worthwhile. For me, the “aha moment” was the chapter on gratitude. I realized that dinner is not just about the food—you need rituals to set the tone. Taking a moment to appreciate the meal and people around us helps us disconnect from our busy lives and ease into quality family time. And it doesn’t have to be religious. David offers pages of suggestions, from prayers to quotations to funny childhood poems (my kids liked the old camp blessing, “Rub a Dub Dub, Thanks for the Grub, Yea God!”)—mix it up, come up with your own, whatever works for you.
To be honest, I loved the message of this book so much that I didn’t even care about the recipes, but I tried and few and, to my delight, they were delicious. I felt this one for Sunday Night Roast Chicken really captured the essence of the book, which is about creating cozy moments for your family around the dinner table. Try serving it with my Parmesan Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots with Thyme. Enjoy!
Sunday Night Roast Chicken
Adapted from The Family Dinner by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt
Note: I’ve taken some liberties in adapting this recipe. The original version calls for a whole chicken, but I prefer a cut-up chicken instead because it’s much easier to serve. I’ve also made some minor changes to the ingredients and method, but the finished product is pretty much the same. If your grocery store carries a “Poultry Blend” herb mixture, buy that–it contains all the herbs you’ll need.
For the Herb Butter
5 3-inch sprigs of thyme
1 3-inch sprig rosemary
5 fresh sage leaves
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
For the Chicken
6 shallots, peeled and halved
1 whole head garlic, clean, unpeeled and cut in half horizontally
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chicken, 4 – 4 ½ pounds, cut into pieces (preferably organic)*
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Sauce
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (I like Swanson Organic)
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon butter
*You can use 4 bone-in chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken if you prefer
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Make the herb butter: Pull herbs from stems and chop finely. Combine chopped herbs, shallots, lemon zest, honey and butter in small bowl and blend well. Set aside.
3. Place shallots and garlic in roasting pan and toss with olive oil (it’s okay if the garlic breaks apart a bit). Pat chicken VERY dry with paper towels (this will help the skin to crisp) and place in roasting pan. Do not crowd. Use a soup spoon to rub herb butter all over chicken and under the skin too (if you don’t eat the skin, rub a lot of it underneath!). Sprinkle kosher salt evenly all over chicken and season with fresh pepper to your liking (I know it seems like a lot of salt but that’s what makes it good). Place chicken in oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until skin is golden brown. Turn heat down to 375 degrees; continue to roast for 15-20 minutes more, or until done. Chicken should be done in less than an hour; do not overcook.
4. Transfer chicken and shallots to serving platter to rest and cover with foil. Discard garlic. Pour off all the fat, leaving the brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add chicken stock and place on the stove over high heat; bring to a boil and whisk in Dijon mustard. Using whisk or wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock and continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Pour sauce into gravy boat and serve alongside chicken. (If you want to get fancy, you can strain the gravy but I never bother.)