Twinkling lights are beginning to dot the city’s streets, quietly marking the start of the holiday season, and with it the promise of festive gatherings and celebrations. It’s a busy time of a year, but also a joyous one -- a time to remind ourselves of what really matters, to relish in the joy of giving, and to cherish moments with the ones we love.
To me, the holiday celebrations are defined by their meals -- humble, comforting dishes that serve to gather my loved ones around the table. So, when Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates asked me to create a holiday inspired meal, I knew I had to make something that would do just that.
This meal is a holiday classic at its best. Everyone's favorite -- roast chicken -- is browned in olive oil in a cast iron skillet until its skin is crisp and crackling. It then roasts on a bed of onions until succulent and juicy. The pan drippings are used to make a sauce, to which a reduced balsamic vinegar is added for depth of flavor and a welcomed sweetness. Add to that a creamy, herbed polenta, caramelized, roasted carrots, and a festive dessert of almond cookies dipped in chocolate, and you have yourself a meal that is worthy of a holiday celebration. It's simple, yet special. Delicious, yet unassuming. It's a meal that is sure to bring your loved ones around the table.
Let's not forget about the giveaway! This post was sponsored by Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates, and they have generously offered to give away the basket of their products that you see below to one of you! The basket includes a wide array of olive oils, vinegars, pastas, chocolates and more. Click here to enter.
roasted chicken with herbed polenta + rainbow carrots
prep time: 45 minutes
inactive time: 2 hours
cook time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
for the chicken + balsamic glaze:
1 [5 - 6] pound chicken
5 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 sprig of fresh sage
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into large wedges
2 cups low sodium chicken stock [preferably homemade]
1/2 cup Colavita Aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted cold butter
for the carrots:
1 bunch of rainbow carrots [about 12 - 14], peeled, greens trimmed, and split in half lengthwise [if you can't find rainbow, orange carrots work perfectly here too]
2 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Parmesan cheese shavings, for garnish
for the polenta:
4 cups water
1 cup Colavita Polenta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
First, prepare the chicken: remove the giblets and trim the wing tips. Rinse the body cavity and pat dry all over with paper towels. Season liberally with salt all over, including inside the body cavity. Place on a sheet pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours [better if overnight].
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, and allow to sit at room temperature. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil all over the chicken and massage into the skin. Fill the cavity with the sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. Using butchers twine, tie the legs together.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, breast side down. Sear the chicken over high heat until the skin on the breast is golden brown, about 4 - 5 minutes. [Try not to move the chicken during this step, unless to quickly peek at the color, as it will not brown nicely]. Once golden brown, turn off the heat and flip the chicken onto its back. Arrange the onion wedges around the chicken and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast, making sure to flip the onions every 30 minutes so they don't burn. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh, away from the bone [this should take about an hour and a half]. If the onions are browning too quickly, you can remove them and set aside while the chicken finishes roasting.
Once the chicken has been roasting for about an hour, prepare the carrots: spread the carrots evenly over a sheet pan, so that they lay in one layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Transfer to the oven with the chicken, and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 35 - 40 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a serving platter and tossing with the pomegranate seeds and shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Once the chicken is done, use tongs to lift it out of the pan, and allow the juices to drain from its cavity back into the skillet. Set aside on a carving board, cover in aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. If you haven't already, remove the onions from the skillet and set those aside as well. Using a spoon, skim the clear layer of fat from the top of the skillet, making sure not to discard any of the brown juices. Place the skillet back over the stovetop and heat over high heat. Once the juices start to bubble, add the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.
While stock is simmering, add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauté pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vinegar thickens and becomes a glaze-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Whisk the balsamic glaze into the simmering chicken stock.
Once the stock and balsamic mixture is reduced and thickened [it should coat the back of a spoon], remove it from the heat and add the chopped thyme and cold butter. Swirl until the butter has melted completely. Transfer to a small sauce pitcher, and cover to keep warm.
Lastly, prepare the polenta: bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a stock pot or large sauce pan. Once boiling, slowly pour in the polenta while whisking. Reduce the heat and cook the polenta, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, thyme, and rosemary. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Spoon the polenta onto plates immediately [see note below] and arrange the chicken over top. Drizzle with the balsamic sauce and serve the carrots on the side.
Note: if the polenta is too thick, or starts to solidify as it cools, whisk in a drizzle of heavy cream or milk [a little at a time] until the desired consistency is reached.
Yield: 6 servings
chocolate dipped almond cookies
prep time: 20 minutes
inactive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons almond paste
3/4 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina White Chocolate, coarsely chopped
Add the butter, almond paste, and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and salt. Stop the mixer just when the dough comes together.
Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer and wrap in plastic wrap. Form into a fat log and place in the refrigerator. Chill until firm; at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper.
Once log of dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, and cut in half. On a clean work surface, roll each half into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Slice each log into 1/4-inch-thick medallions and arrange the cookies on the lined sheet pans, making sure to leave some space between each cookie. Transfer to the oven and bake until cookies are just barely golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
While cookies cool, add the slivered almonds to a dry pan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle almonds into a bowl, and set aside.
Add the two types of chopped chocolate into two separate small bowls and melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave, making sure to stir the chocolate at the end of every interval [should take about 1 1/2 minutes per bowl in total]. Set aside.
To finish the cookies: once completely cool, dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Place onto a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool. Repeat until all the cookies have been dipped, half in the bittersweet chocolate, and half in the white chocolate. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the cookies, pressing them gently into the chocolate. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until chocolate is completely hardened. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Yield: approximately 24 cookies