By Nick May
My favorite time of the year is here. I don’t have to convince a Vermonter that autumn is spectacular.
I can still visit the Middlebury farmers market on a Saturday morning in early October and get nearly everything I need for an easy roast chicken dinner on Sunday. Truth is, I make this dinner throughout the year—but, in my opinion, it tastes best and is most satisfying in the fall and winter months.
I prefer to use local and organic products. You can’t go wrong with a Rolling Bale Farm (Shoreham) fresh or frozen chicken. Owner and farmer Hilary is at the Middlebury farmers market every Saturday. If I can’t get a fresh bird, I will let a frozen one bathe in a brine in the fridge overnight and take it out first thing Sunday morning to rest until I’m ready to throw it in the oven. When I was in my 30s I wouldn’t think of roasting a chicken or turkey without brining it beforehand. I’m a bit more easy-going these days and save my brining efforts for Thanksgiving.
If I have vegetables I need to do something with—beets, onion, garlic, fennel, leeks, potatoes, carrots (apples work, too)—I’ll chop them into quarters, drizzle them with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and toss them in the bottom of the roasting pan before I place the bird on top. Vegetables are optional and usually an afterthought for me. There is nothing wrong with simply roasting a chicken on its own. After all, it’s warm chicken meat and skin I’m craving on a Sunday afternoon. Add a small side salad of spicy mesclun greens or arugula tossed with some avocado oil and salt and pepper and I’m satisfied. If I’m craving some starch, I’ll boil several small potatoes, push them through a potato ricer, shred a couple cloves of raw garlic on a Microplane® (grater), throw a half-stick of butter in and mash vigorously with large serving fork.
Nick May grew up in Indiana and has lived in Vermont for enough years now to appreciate the warm goodness of a Sunday afternoon roasting chicken. He and his dog, Red, live on a quiet dirt road “in the middle of the most beautiful nowhere” anywhere.