I know I promised Holiday recap: Part two. And I know you're all dying to know what the rest of my holiday was like (blogging does imply a certain element of narcissism, doesn't it?), but I decided to break it up with a recipe.
But it still involves one of my Christmas gifts, so it's still sort of keeping with the holiday recap theme.
One of my gifts from my parents this year was a cast iron Dutch oven! I've been dying for one--specifically one big enough to cook a whole chicken. A quick Google search will yield many accolades from people who think using cast iron is the only way to cook, and I'm starting to agree. My Dutch oven distributes heat really evenly, once it gets hot it stays hot, even over low heat (even for a while over no heat), it goes easily into the oven, food doesn't stick to it, and it's gorgeous!
There are a few downsides to cast iron, to be sure. For one, my 7-quart Dutch oven weighs 18 lbs before there's any food in it. This hasn't been a huge problem for me, but I can imagine that it would be difficult for some people. More pressing for me is that you have to wash and dry cast iron immediately or else it will rust. This is annoying sometimes, but mostly it makes me do the dishes in a timely manner, so really that's not a bad thing either. So I guess the only real problem with the new Dutch oven is that I haven't found a place to store it in my tiny kitchen, so it keeps getting shuffled from the stove to the counter to the table and back. And actually, the biggest challenge was transporting it from Arlington to Minneapolis. I ended up carrying it on the plane in a padded and zippered shopping bag.
In the few weeks I've had my glorious Dutch oven, it's already gotten plenty of use. I inaugurated it by inviting my dear friend Christian over for dinner and making good on my promise to cook a whole chicken. I didn't follow a recipe, but it ended up sweet and juicy, the vegetables were tender but not mushy, and the wine and spices made the house smell amazing.
As usual, I didn't follow a recipe, but I'll go through what I did. I almost hate to write the steps out because they make the prep seem long and complicated--and basically I just put everything in the Dutch oven and cooked it.
Also, as always, pretty much every part of this recipe is flexible. Use as many and whatever kinds of veggies you want (celery, parsnips, or turnips probably would be delicious) and adjust the spices and wine to your taste. You could also use part chicken broth and part wine (or omit the wine entirely).
1 whole chicken (mine was about 4 lbs, use any size you want, just make sure it's cooked through!)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
3 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
2 medium red potatoes, in one-inch cubes
1 package of mushrooms (I used button mushrooms, but I bet some other kind would have tasted great)
4 cloves garlic (or less...or more!)
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
rosemary and thyme (I used dried, fresh would have been awesome)
1-2 cups red wine (I used one, wish I had used two)
1-2 Tbs of lemon juice or lemon wedges
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 250˚.
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.
Rinse the chicken, sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Pat dry with paper towels and put in dutch oven.
Cook chicken about 5 minutes on each side, until skin is browned. Remove chicken from pot.
Add onions, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms to pot, stir to coat in oil and brown for a few minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, and time and saute for another few minutes until garlic is fragrant (but not burnt! I tend to burn garlic).
Put chicken back in the pot. You might have to rearrange the veggies some to make everything fit. Pour in red wine.
Cover Dutch oven and cook in oven for 1 1/2-3 hours, depending on the size of the chicken and the temperature of the oven. Mine took a little over 2 hours. A thermometer should read 165˚ when inserted into the breast (I'm not an expert on meat temperatures and I don't want anyone to get sick, so check on that if you'd like).
Stir in lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges.
Serve with something that will mop up all the delicious liquid!