Growing up, my mom’s mom often came for extended visits. A widow by the time I was born, Nanny grew up in Belfast, Ireland and moved to Brooklyn, New York in her 20s. She relied on walking and public transportation her entire life, and never felt the need to learn how to drive on her own. My dad would drive the hour or so to collect and bring her to us, and she would stay for a week or two at a time until dad drove her back home. My memories of those visits are very special. We walked everywhere… to our little town center where we’d sit at Woolworth’s counter sipping ice-cream sodas; to the beach, boardwalk, or park where she would find a spot in the shade (to protect her gorgeous Irish skin), content to watch her grandchildren romp around.
The memories of her visits that influenced me most are the taste memories. Nanny would take over the kitchen, giving my mom a well deserved break from feeding a family of six. Nanny’s dinners were simple, learned during her very humble childhood… shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, and roast chicken. The house would smell divine, luring all of us in… onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes roasting alongside a chicken; mingling with flavorful juices; crisping and browning on the outside, yet everything remaining tender inside. Family lore has it that Nanny’s parents kept chickens in Belfast- urban farmers a century ago! She didn’t continue the homesteading in Brooklyn, so I have no doubt she learned how to cook a chicken properly before she left Ireland.
Roast chicken and veggies are one of the best one dish dinners to have in your rotation. It only takes a little forethought- you must have a chicken on hand, but the other ingredients are probably already in your fridge and pantry. No need to stand in front of the stove stirring, or browning first, then transferring to another pan. Simply put the chicken in the oven, and walk away. An hour later, add the veggies to the same roasting pan, and again- walk away. Depending on the size of your bird, about 30 minutes later start checking the chicken. You’ll know the bird is done when the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. The rule of thumb is 20-30 minutes/pound. Please check for yourself as cooking times can vary depending on your oven, as well as the temperature of the chicken when it went into the oven. The veggies should be fork tender, and golden brown in spots.
Put everything on a platter and bring to the table to serve family style. You’ll be creating taste memories for your own family. It doesn’t get any easier!
One of the bonuses of a roast chicken and veggie dinner are the leftovers… think burritos, tacos, stir fry, chicken salad or throw some shredded chicken into marinara sauce destined for pasta, adding a bit of protein.
Simple Roast Chicken and Vegetables
1 3-4lb chicken
5 cloves of garlic, skin on
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large carrots, chopped into 1½-2” pieces
4 celery stalks, chopped into 1½-2” pieces
5 small red or yellow (Yukon gold) potatoes, halved
1 large yellow onion, quartered
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
Preheat oven to 375°.
Put chicken into a roasting pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper all over chicken, inside and out.
Wash lemon in cold water and dry. Cut in half.
Put lemon in cavity, along with garlic cloves.
Place chicken in the middle of oven to roast for an hour.
In the meantime, toss the veggies with salt, pepper and olive oil. After chicken has roasted for an hour, remove from the oven and scatter vegetables all around, tucking some underneath the chicken if possible.
Place chicken and vegetables back in the oven. Continue roasting for at least 30 more minutes or until juices between leg and thigh run clear when cut.* Remove chicken to platter and tent with foil. If necessary continue roasting vegetables until tender when pierced with a knife.
*General rule when roasting chicken is 20-30 minutes/pound at 375°.