[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]
Easy weeknight dinners aren’t just about finding recipes that can be made in under 30 minutes from start to finish. They’re also not solely about cooking up huge batches of stew on the weekend so you can feed yourself the same exact meal every night of the coming week. While those two strategies work, it’s helpful to also turn to a third: Use made-in-advance building blocks to whip up easy and varied dinners on-demand.
I’ve written about this before when describing cooking strategies during the Coronavirus quarantine, so take this recipe as yet one more example of how to put those strategies to work. And mind you—they’re useful for everyday home cooking beyond the current global pandemic situation.
In this recipe, I cook sweet summer corn in butter with thyme, leek, and white pepper to make the vegetable base of the meal. This vegetable ragout can be cooked while your chicken roasts, but you could also make the corn in advance (possibly even doubling the batch to have leftovers for another meal).
In a lot of classic French cooking, white pepper is used when you don’t want the little flecks of black pepper visible in a dish. I’ve never bought into letting appearances determine choosing one ingredient over another, especially not at home. So while it may seem like the white pepper is a good visual choice for the corn, I actually prefer it here for its complex funky flavor and aroma, which makes the sweet corn a lot more interesting and plays well with the romesco sauce.
The romesco sauce, meanwhile, pulls double duty as both a sauce, but also a hearty ingredient that adds heft and substance to the meal, thanks to all the almonds, bread, and oil that are pureed into it. It’s a great accompaniment to the corn, adding earthiness from the dried peppers and nuts alongside a sweet tomato note that synchs up with the corn.
The romesco, too, can be made day-of, but it keeps well in the fridge for several days, so it’s yet one more component you can make in advance and then keep at the ready. It’s also a recipe you can double to ensure you have more to slather on sandwiches or serve with vegetables or some other meat during the week. Just don’t make my recent mistake of trying to double the batch all at once in a standard eight-inch mortar and pestle—it will be almost impossible to manage unless you happen to have an extra-massive mortar and pestle lying around for the occasion.
If you get those components prepared ahead of time, all you have to do for dinner is pop a chicken in the oven. And if you want to eliminate the spatchcocking step and just roast the chicken whole, that’s fine too—there’s nothing wrong with making your life a little easier when you can.
Why It Works
- Spatchcocking the chicken help the dark and white meat reach their doneness levels at the same time.
- Scraping the corn cobs of any corn milk enhances the creaminess and flavor of the buttery corn.
What’s New On Serious Eats
- 1 large chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.25kg)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon (15g) softened unsalted butter, divided
- 1 medium leek (about 12 ounces; 340g), white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 4 fresh ears fresh corn (about 12 ounces; 340g each), kernels cut and cobs scraped of any corn milk
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 recipe Romesco Sauce, room temperature or just slightly warmed
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Using sharp kitchen shears, remove spine from chicken and reserve for another use (such as homemade chicken stock). Flatten chicken by placing skin side up on cutting board and applying firm pressure to breast bone. Season generously all over with salt and white pepper.
Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Position chicken, skin side up, so that breasts are aligned with center of baking sheet and legs are close to edge. Roast for 20 minutes, then rub skin all over with the 1 tablespoon (15g) softened butter. Return to oven and cook until thickest part of breast close to bone registers 150°F (66°C) on an instant-read thermometer and joint between thighs and body registers at least 170°F (77°C), 25 to 45 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to cutting board, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons (60g) butter over medium heat until foaming. Add diced leek and cook, stirring often, until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn kernels, along with any of the cob’s scraped milk, and the thyme, raise heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, until corn is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes; lower heat to medium at any point if the corn or leeks begin to brown.
Stir in 1/2 cup water and cook until reduced to a creamy glaze; if the glaze breaks, stir in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the emulsion reforms. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Carve chicken. Spoon a large circle of romesco sauce onto the bottom of individual serving plates or bowls. Divide corn mixture between each plate, setting it in the middle of the romesco, then arrange chicken on top. Serve.
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