Who doesn't love a dish that takes minimum effort with maximum appeal? My go-to for weeknight comfort food is often a whole chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs and roasted with a handful of vegetables — everything from potatoes and carrots to turnips and celery root. An easy one-pot meal that everyone at the table agrees on.
Lately, I've been making a chicken cushion. It's basically a whole chicken that's been carefully boned out and tied back together to look like a "cushion," which helps with even cooking. The folks at Butcher Block 9 in South Anchorage and Mat Valley Meats sell whole ready-to-go chicken cushions, so the prep is expertly done for you.
Here's a simple way to honor all that hard work. Toss in your favorite vegetables; even the less-celebrated Brussels sprout gets to shine when cooked with the chicken and citrus. And, the best part of a roast chicken (aside from the juicy meat and crispy skin) are the pan juices, those browned flavorful bits scraped from the bottom of the pan. I like to add in a final drizzle of balsamic and some mustard to bring all the flavors together. Serve with a green leaf salad tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette.
Roasted chicken cushion
Makes 6 servings
1 whole chicken cushion or 1 (2-to-3) pound whole roasting chicken
1 small lemon or orange, cut in half
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 fresh Italian or other favorite sausages
1 pound Brussels sprouts or carrots or small potatoes
1/2 cup water, white wine or chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
About 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse chicken cushion and pat dry. Stuff the cavity with half of the lemon, reserving the other half, and 1 clove of garlic. Season chicken generously all over with salt and pepper.
Place the onion slices in a single layer in a roasting pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Top the onions with the remaining garlic cloves and add Brussels sprouts evenly and drizzle with some olive oil. Set the chicken cushion on top of the onions and squeeze the juice of the remaining half of the lemon all over the vegetables; add the lemon to the pan, if desired.
Roast for 15 minutes. Add about ½ cup water or white wine or chicken broth to the pan. Cover with aluminum foil, reduce heat to 375 degrees and cook chicken for 35 minutes. Remove foil and add some more liquid to the bottom of the pan if dry and vegetables sticking. Continue to cook for about another 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150-155 degrees. Combine the mustard and balsamic together.
Remove pan from oven; gently tilt pan and add the mustard-balsamic vinegar mixture, stirring to combine. Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.