Monday, June 27, 2011

A French Sunday Night Dinner

Every Sunday night J and I try to make a special meal together for just the two of us where we sit down, talk and really savor our food together.

I've written about this before but growing up, we always had dinner as a family on Sunday nights.  As a doctor, my dad didn't always make it home in time for dinner during the week and for us kids, Friday and Saturday nights were filled with friends and sleepovers and later when we were teenagers, football games, movies and work.  Sunday night was a time we were all home and my dad would whip up another fabulous creation in the kitchen or on the grill.   I love that we are carrying on that tradition with our little family!

This Sunday we had a delicious and organic French-inspired meal that I would like to share with you all.

Lemon-stuffed Roast Chicken with Croutons and Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter.

Way back in February, I bought two organic whole roasting chickens at Whole Foods during a sale (At $1.69 a pound, I wish I would have bought even more!).  We ate one that Friday and froze the other to use at a later date.  With the big move coming up in just over a month (yikes!), that date was last night.  Using an easy-peasy recipe I saw on Barefoot Contessa last week, we made delicious and tender roast chicken.

Lemon-stuffed Roast Chicken with Croutons, borrowed from Barefoot Contessa's Ina Garten

1 four to five pound organic roasting chicken
1 large onion, sliced--we used red onion because that is what we had on hand
Olive oil
Kosher salt
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 cups bread cubes cut to 3/4" thick or the equivalent of one baguette--if you are making this dish for two people, which we were, you will need half of a baguette or three cups of bread cubes

Kitchen Supplies:
Large oven-proof pan for roasting
Paper towels
Kitchen twine
Small saucepan for melting butter
Pastry brush
Large skillet for croutons
Paring knife
Carving knife and fork

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Take the giblets out of the chicken's cavity and wash inside and out.  Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers (mine had a few that came right out with a paring knife).  In the roasting pan, toss the onion with a little olive oil to coat then place the bird on top of the onions.  Sprinkle the inside cavity with salt and pepper and place the quartered lemons inside.  Pat the outside of the bird dry with paper towels (this will help get the skin nice and crispy), brush it with the melted butter and season with additional salt and pepper.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and cut little slits in the "armpits" of the bird before tucking the wing tips into them so that they do not brown.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.  My bird took about 1 hour 20 minutes this time!  Cover with foil and let rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.

While the chicken rests, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high to high heat.  Add croutons and immediately turn down the heat to medium-low.  This will allow the bread cubes to become golden and crispy rather than soggy!  Saute the bread cubes, stirring frequently for 8 to 10 minutes.  When golden brown, toss with salt and pepper and place in the bottom of a serving platter.  Carve the chicken (J did the honors for us) and place over the bed of croutons before pouring the pan juices over the platter.

We only served half of the chicken--the other half will be turned into a spicy Pumpkin Chicken Enchiladas tomorrow!
On Saturday, I got up early and headed to the Farmer's Market a bit earlier than I usually get there (I arrived at 8:30 and usually do not make it over until 9:30 or 10:00).  I was rewarded with thin and crisp asparagus (one of three bundles left!) which we roasted along with the chicken.  According to my new favorite cookbook and anniversary gift, Williams-Sonoma's Cooking from the Farmer's Market, trimmed asparagus can be stored in a shallow cup of water for up to three days but it is best when eaten shortly after purchase which we did after eating risotto with roasted beets the night before (look for more about the cookbook and the recipe in a future post!).  As good as the chicken was (and it was delicious!), I think the asparagus stole the show!

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter, adapted from The Best of Cooking Light Cookbook

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots--we used 3 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion and 1 clove of chopped garlic instead because it is what we had on hand
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme--we used 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme instead
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 bunch of local asparagus spears fresh from the Farmer's Market

Kitchen Supplies:
Small sauce pan or ramekin (if using microwave) to melt the butter
Mixing bowl
Glass baking dish
Cooking Spray
Aluminum foil

Combine shallots, butter, vinegar, thyme, salt and rind; stirring well with a whisk.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Snap off tough ends of the asparagus.  Arrange asparagus in a single layer in a pan coated with cooking spray.  Cover with foil; bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.  Pour butter mixture over asparagus; toss gently to coat.  Serve immediately.

Serves: 4 or in our case, 2

We paired the dinner with a glass of red wine which only added to the French bistro vibe we had going on with the food.  The food was so delicious that we ate all of the asparagus and croutons and had to restrain ourselves from devouring the chicken (since we knew we needed half of it for dinner later this week.)  This chicken recipe will definitely become part of our repertoire!

What was your favorite meal this weekend?  Do you have a night set aside each week for a family dinner like we do?  Anything delicious planned for this week?  Do tell!


  1. oh Ina... she knows her chickens =) haha! I heard her recipes are like gold! I love her lentil soup so so much!

    and I totally hear ya on the sunday family dinners =) P and I really enjoy that time together too!


  2. I love, love, love Ina! Although so many rave about her chicken, I haven't actually tried it yet. It's definitely on my list.

    Talking about chickn, have you heard of engagement chicken?

    Oh @Jennifer, I've been wanting to try her lentil soup - I bought the lentil and it's been sitting pretty in my pantry. Will add it on my list too! Yay, I guess I have a couple of ideas for dinner this week.

  3. looks SO SO good! family lunch on sundays is a must in italy. taking time to enjoy your family/boyfriend/frieds whoever with good food and wine and a tablecloth is what life is all about.

  4. That asparagus recipe looks fantastic! I love your Sunday dinner tradition. It's hard to find time for family to get together when we live such busy lives!!

  5. OMg, that looks delish! I'm also super curious about the pumpkin chicken enchiladas ... yum! I love that tradition of Sunday night dinners. What a great idea :)

  6. Yummers!! Sunday dinners were the tradition growing up on the farm; Mom cooked a roast or a chicken and we'd feast after we got home from morning church. followed by a nap this was the lazy day of the week, despite farm chores. you have sparked a memory for me... don't be surprised if you see a post sometime soon about this!! :)

  7. That looks delicious! I really do love the taste of a good WHOLE chicken. There is just something about it. My brother does the "beer chicken" thing. I am sure you have heard of it. I have never tried it but have heard that it's also really good and really easy!

    It is hard to get together! My family (parents) still eats together almost every night, but my boyfriend and I probably sit down one night a week, randomly, when we are together.

  8. Aw that's such a cool Sunday night tradition!!! That's the perfect way to start a week :) I need to have a "savor" night!

  9. @ StarletStarlet: I have heard of engagement chicken and even have read a few stories online of girls it worked for :) When it comes time for some of my friends to tie the night, you know I'll be sharing the recipe!

    @ Andrea: I agree! The world just keeps getting busier and busier it seems! The asparagus was sooo good which may explain why we had no leftovers :)

    @ iheartvegetables: You should really try it! It is a great way to start the week :)

  10. That all looks so good! We used to do Sunday night family dinners, too, and that's definitely something I want to do with my own family someday. :)

  11. What a great post! I am currently planning for our long weekend, post to come!!

  12. ooh! Sounds yummy! i just made an awesome roast chicken too! It will be up pretty soon...

  13. Yum! I need to roast a chicken again soon but it's more a fall/winter thing for me, so I might wait a bit.

    We don't have a set night. I've had a bad habit of eating in front of the computer even though Matt is right next to me so I really need to stop that!


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