Celebrating the value of partnership in love, life & chicken dinner
Perfection seems a pretty boring concept from my point of view, which is convenient as I’ve never been accused of being perfect at anything.
Entirely without fault and satisfying all requirements, as the definition of “perfect” explains, is something I don’t aspire to. Life has shown me that often my best efforts to do something precisely right epically fail. Instead, I strive to accept the clumsy aspects of who I am and have learned to rely on others. My imperfections reveal missing pieces. This compels me to nurture the relationships that complete my puzzle, so to speak. In so doing, I have found the most amount of love and life satisfaction.
Relationships and the love that holds them together rely on humility, equitability and mutual support. When I am not alone in any task or aspect of being alive, life and love have unfolded before me and deepened within me. This is where partnership resides, I feel. Whether the love between friends or the love at the heart of romantic partnerships, collaboration makes our imperfect selves perfectly united.
A great meal is this way, too. Prepare an incredible whole roasted chicken –
awesome. Add saffron-laced Israeli couscous dotted with roasted red peppers and a chicory salad scattered with salty blue cheese bits, and your chicken dinner is made complete. Open a bottle of chilled, Sancerre and you have a true masterpiece of a meal. It’s the partnership of the various elements that make for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day dinner at home.
Sancerre is an appellation in France adored for its white wines with extraordinary texture and flinty attributes. Located in the Loire Valley, Sancerre is the most recognized region for producing French Sauvignon Blanc. The 2019 Domaine du Piton Sancerre Le Piton ($50 at Total Wine & More) is light-bodied and aromatic, with grapefruit on the palate and brisk acidity. It pairs beautifully with the salty salad and herbaceous chicken. A match made in heaven.
If your partner prefers a red wine, a young Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley would be fabulous. I like 2019 Tether Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($50 at Total Wine & More) with this meal. The medium-bodied, deeply garnet wine’s warm and stewed fruit attributes pair perfectly with the paprika and roasted red peppers. The wine goes equally well with the blue cheese starring in the chicory salad.
My sister-in-law served a show-stopper turkey at our last Thanksgiving dinner. She’s an incredible home chef who always manages to wow.
She shared that her secret ingredient for the Thanksgiving bird was paprika. Craving that mildly sweet, earthy and ever-so-smoky flavor of the paprika-infused meat inspired me to create this recipe – Perfectly Imperfect Slow Roasted Chicken with Red Peppers and Saffron Israeli Couscous. I call it “Imperfect” because rather than exact measurements, I eyeball the seasonings.
Every roast has come out slightly different from the one before. At times, a little smokier from more paprika. Other times the fennel or garlic flavors are front and center. But it has never disappointed. Every version has filled our home with warming aromas and delivered lip-smacking yumminess to the dinner table.
Cooking the chicken on a lower temp makes for a relaxed evening. And that’s great, because I love a Valentine’s Day dinner that allows me to enjoy a glass of wine and maybe even a slow dance in the kitchen with my husband.
• 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) organic whole chicken
• Gray sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• Large pinch fennel seeds
• Large pinch paprika
• 4 cloves garlic
• 2 red bell peppers, cut in half and de-seeded
• 2 shallots, cut in half and peeled
• 1 teaspoon butter
• 1 to 1 1/2 cups Israeli or pearl couscous
• 2 cups chicken broth
• Small pinch saffron, crumbled with fingers
• Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mash salt, black pepper, fennel seeds, paprika, garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons oil into paste using mortar and pestle, or use knife on cutting board. Season chicken all over with paste (if you can do this step earlier in the day, all the better). Allow chicken to rest at least 30 minutes. Place red pepper and shallots in cast-iron skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with remaining olive oil. Place chicken atop peppers and shallots.
Place in oven and roast until chicken is golden brown and completely cooked through,
2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove from oven and let chicken rest in pan 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook Israeli couscous. Bring broth, butter, saffron and pinch of salt to simmer over medium heat. Add couscous and return to simmer. Cover and cook on low 7-10 minutes.
Remove chicken from pan and place on cutting board. Using slotted spoon, remove peppers and shallots. Chop vegetables roughly and fold through couscous along with parsley. Spread mixture on platter.
Carve chicken and place atop couscous with its juices.
The bitter-flavored hearty family of leafy winter veggies known as chicories is a bright and colorful addition to this homey meal. Often served with rich cheeses and sweet flavors to balance the bite of the greens, this salad is on repeat in our home through the fall and winter seasons. It really is a beautiful partnership the way that the sweetness of the honey and pears balances the bitter greens. The creamy richness of the blue cheese works beautifully, as do the toasted nuts. This salad is a fabulous example of how individual elements make something whole.
• 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
• 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1/2 head escarole, leaves separated and torn
• 1/2 head radicchio, leaves separated and torn
• Small handful toasted nuts (I used walnuts, but pecans would be tasty, too)
• 1 Bartlett pair, diced
• Large handful crumbled blue cheese
• Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
• Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare dressing by adding vinegar, mustard and honey to jar (this makes enough for two salads). Add lid and shake vigorously to combine. Add chicories, pear and blue cheese to large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add dressing and toss to combine.
You will have enough dressing and chicories to make a second salad. Save both for your next meal.