Dinner Tonight: Roast Chicken + Caramelized Squash

We're officially heading in a winterly direction and that means it's time to crank up the oven and get roasting. The days are shorter, sunlight (what there is of it) is long and stretched thin, and those long, cold nights call for cozy, earthy food to warm you and yours from the inside out. A shockingly simple braise-roasted chicken -- just season, brown, and roast -- is classic and hearty. Melissav's brilliant Caramelized Squash Wedges get gussied up with a positively inspired ricotta, hazelnut, and sage pesto. Light a fire, open a favorite bottle, and feast.

The Menu

Spatchcocked and Braise-Roasted Chicken by amanda

This recipe serves 4

One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed (skins left on)
2 rosemary sprigs
8 sage leaves
1/2 cup fino sherry or dry white wine
About 1 cup chicken broth
1 lemon, cut into thin slices (skin left on; seeds discarded)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Using poultry shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken. Reserve the backbone. Turn the chicken skin-side-up and press down on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Generously season the chicken all over.

In a casserole pan or other low shallow pan large enough to fit the flattened chicken, melt the butter in the oil over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the chicken skin-side-down, and the backbone, and brown well, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove to a plate. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat.

Set the pan back on the stove. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook over medium heat until the shallot has softened, about 2 minutes. Add the rosemary, sage and sherry. Increase the heat and boil off nearly all the sherry. Add 1 cup chicken broth and the lemon slices. Gently lower the chicken back into the pan, again skin-side up.

If needed, add more broth to come 1/2-inch up the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to the oven, and braise-roast until the chicken is cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees), 30 to 50 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes -- uncovered, or the skin will soften! Carve the bird. Strain the pan juices and adjust the seasoning. Serve bird and cooked-down broth, and enjoy!

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Caramelized Butternut Squash Wedges with Sage-Hazelnut Pesto

Get the recipe.

The Grocery List

Serves 4

One 4 to 4.5 lb chicken (Ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you. Or, if you'd rather DIY, just snip out the backbone with kitchen shears or a sturdy knife)
2 large shallots
2 rosemary sprigs
1 big bunch fresh sage leaves
2 butternut squashes
(about 3 1/2 pounds total)
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ricotta salata

We assume you have butter, salt, pepper, garlic, lemons, chicken stock, fino sherry or dry white wine, olive oil, cayenne, and sugar. If not, you'll need those, too!

The Plan

1. The chicken takes a bit longer than the squash, so focus on getting it into the oven first. Season the bird generously all over, and brown it in butter.

2. Set the browned chicken aside for a moment and soften the shallots and garlic in the pan you'll be roasting the chicken in. Add all the herbs and stock, and place the chicken back in the pan. Transfer to the oven to roast for about 30 to 50 minutes (until cooked through).

3. Peel and slice the squash, toss it with the seasonings and pop in in the oven along with the chicken to roast. (The oven will be at 425 degrees for the chicken, which is okay even though the squash recipe calls for 500. It'll just take a bit longer to cook so keep an eye on it.)

4. Prep the ricotta and sage pesto! (We highly recommend nibbling on the ricotta while you're at it.)

5. When you pull the chicken out of the oven, let it rest while you toss the roasted squash with the nutty ricotta pesto. Tuck in to a positively impressive weeknight autumn feast!