One of the first things I learned to cook was roast chicken.
To 13 year old me, the concept felt fairly simple – all you have to do is drench the bird in an infusion of melted butter/fat and some aromatics, stuff half a lemon up its cavity for theatrics (at 13, anything theatrical seemed like a great idea ) and then stick it in the oven for an hour.
I have since learned that A) I could do so much better than the dry, cottony mess I concocted that day and B) a whole roast chicken looks spectacular out of the oven, but two bone-in chicken legs can look just as good when they’re sitting over some blistered peppers resting in a gravy of thyme infused olive oil with some shallots, sundried tomatoes and olives.
I call this a “Weeknight Special” because it’s pretty easy to whip up on a weeknight and it looks spectacular once it’s the dinner table, which makes it pretty special. The possibilities are also endless with this recipe – sometimes I throw in some mushrooms or even carrots that are almost past their best-by date. Other times, I dust some cayenne pepper or hot paprika on the chicken or throw in a single jalapeño pepper for some heat. But each time, I make sure that I’m using chicken that has been brined for at least 2 hours.
I sometimes serve this alongside a quick salad, but whenever I’m feeling festive, I break out the saffron and the rice cooker to make a simple yet indulgent pot of saffron rice to soak up the gravy in my skillet. My husband loves his plate with a dollop of greek yoghurt on the side.
Here’s an ode to one of my favourite weeknight roasts for two (and to @riespiderwick, the lovely soul who helped me bring my Nad So Fry logo dreams to fruition):
Nad’s Weeknight Roast Chicken
Ingredients (checkout the hyperlinks for where to find certain ingredients!):
1. 2 pieces brined chicken quarters, patted dry
2. 2 sweet palermo peppers (you could also use bell peppers but I prefer palermo peppers because they’re sweeter)
3. 4 shallots (I usually leave them whole, but if they’re a little too big, I cut them in half)
4. 5 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised (because I am a garlic monster. Feel free to use less if garlic isn’t your thing)
5. 1 lemon (Cut lemon in half, use one half to make 4 slices and save the other half for later)
6. Pitted green olives (I usually eyeball the amount of olives I put in, but 8-10 is my sweet spot. I also sometimes use green olives stuffed with pimiento peppers when I can find them!)
7. 4-5 pieces of sundried tomatoes (You can get this at Jaya Grocer or this cheaper alternative from Tesco that works just as well)
8. 2 sprigs of thyme (here’s a quick guide to what is a sprig of thyme, just in case)
10. Black pepper
11. Paprika powder
12. 1/4 cup of olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 180 celsius.
2. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high (if you don’t have a skillet, you can use a pan to blister and sautee thing before transfering everything into a baking tray. Make sure to use a baking tray that’s deep enough to hold the juices post-cooking!).
3. Blister the peppers whole on each side, just enough to get some colour on them to give the peppers a smoky taste. (Checkout my IG highlight marked ? for a quick look at how I get this done).
4. Once blistered on each side, take peppers off the pan and set aside to cool. Once cooled down, make slits on each side to carefully remove the core and seeds.
5. Reduce heat of skillet to medium-low, drizzle a little olive oil in. Sautee shallots and garlic for about a minute, season with a little salt to release flavours.
6. Add sundried tomatoes, olives and one sprig of thyme. Cook together with shallots and garlic for another minute. As the sundried tomatoes and olives are little sour, balance out the flavours with a little salt.
7. Turn heat off, return sliced peppers to the skillet and rest two slices of lemon on each pepper and a strand of thyme on each lemon slice (if you don’t have a skillet, transfer everything into a deep-ish cake tin/roasting tray right about now).
8. Rub chicken pieces with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then season the chicken on all sides with salt, pepper and paprika (about a tablespoon for both chicken legs would suffice, but feel free to add more if you want a little more heat). Place marinated chicken on peppers, place one lemon slice and a strand of thyme on each quartered chicken.
9. Squeeze juice of half a lemon all over the skillet and then add the 1/4 cup of olive oil to the skillet (this will help build our gravy).
10. Roast for 60 minutes in the oven.
11. Serve with a quick salad or saffron rice and a dollop of greek yoghurt on the side (optional)!
As the combination of this weeknight roast and saffron rice is a big hit in my household, I haven’t been able to venture out of the confines of salad/saffron rice/saffron quinoa very much. If you’re trying this recipe out and have other side dish ideas, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂